The Inglorious Twelfth
Monday 8th August
10 am CET
The Furstenheim Townhouse
“She’s a very fortunate girl,” Annie said as she and Carina sat on the couch, Rudi and Mags waving their arms as Judith picked up another brightly wrapped parcel and opened it. Juliette and the others were also there, Kelsey and Molly from the side of the room.
the book from darling?" Juliette asked as Judith opened another present
and handed it to her mother.
"Dimitri Amkov," Carina said as she flipped through the pages,
"it's all Russian fairy tales told in pictures."
lovely," Juliette smiled, "you'll have to send him a thank you
"I will. What have you got now Judith?"
Mommy a wowing Teddy," Judith held up the little bear dressed in a Yale
rowing outfit. "It's from Aunty Kelsey and Aunty Molly."
did you find that?" Carina asked her friends.
didn't," Kelsey smiled, "A friend of my Moms makes custom teddy bears
so I got her to get it made."
"Such a great idea," Carina shook her head, "Thank you girls, you know just how much Judith is going to love that."
They both smiled as Judith hugged the bear, and then put it down as she went to the next package.
“Mommy – blue pants!”
jeans?" Annie asked as Carina showed Judith the little trousers.
are," Juliette looked at the wrapping paper to see who they were from. "Oh
I should have guessed," she grinned, "they are from Catherine she
must have had them made especially in a tiny size."
some growth room built in..."
when Judith gets too big for them we will put them aside for Mags."
princess wearing hand-me-downs?" Molly asked.
not, want not," Sigi laughed, "my youngest
practically everything he wore as a baby had originally been worn by his
she's not telling you Molly is that she still has a lot of it packed away in
case her grandchildren can one day wear it."
called both being prepared, and thrifty."
"Quite right Sigi darling." Natalya nodded.
11 am BST
“Does this look right?” Miley tried to see as much as she could of herself in the little dressing table mirror. The light bulb was off, the natural light taking on a sepia tone as it came through the dirty and cracked panes. On the floor were two cases, filled with clothes and shoes, taking up most of the spare room on the floor.
“Let me see,” Laura said as she looked her friend up and down. The twelve year old had her hair pulled back and held in a bunch, as she twisted nervously round.
“Agnes said that these boots were to be worn sometimes with the new jeans,” Miley looked down at the little black ankle boots on her feet.
“She did,” Laura said as she looked at the younger girl’s top. “Is that one of your old T-shirts?”
“It is, but it’s clean, and I want to keep my new ones for Scotland.”
“Well I can’t see much wrong…”
“But you aren’t Agnes Laura,” Miley said quietly, “what is she going to say?”
“I think she will say you look fine,” Laura grinned. “What about me?”
“Well,” Miley said as she tapped her chin, “those other jeans aren’t as nice as the Sharamel’s…”
“I know, but will they do?”
“Yes,” Miley nodded, “and they don’t look bad with the new trainers.”
“That’s what I was hoping kiddo“ Laura turned and looked in the mirror, “Kathy gave me this hoodie from the clothes that arrived yesterday. What do you think?”
“It’s great, but just hope that there aren’t going to be any Arsenal supporters there with you wearing a Spurs top,” Miley giggled.
“Yeah, I’ll take the chance though,” Laura, laughed aloud. “Are you going to wear any makeup?”
“No,” Miley shook her head, “and I don’t think you should either…well not until we see what some of the other kids our age do.”
“Yeah, we don’t want to look too out of place.” Laura looked at their little bathroom area. “Did you pack your toothbrush, your flannel and all that?”
“I did,” Miley took a last look in her suitcase to make sure she hadn’t missed anything. “You?”
“Yes,” Laura looked at the little cheap clock on the wall. “And I have our box in my case.”
She looked at the little tin biscuit box, which contained their money and the few things they called their own. “Agnes shouldn’t be too long.”
“Are you as nervous as I am?” Miley suddenly asked.
“Truth? I’m scared as hell Miley.”
“Among other things,” the slightly older girl said as she poured water into an old McDonald’s Ice Drink container. “I never even dreamed that one day I’d go in a plane, let alone going to some fancy wedding, meeting so many posh people…”
“Yeah, I’m scared as well,” Miley reached out and held her friend’s hand. “But you’ll be there, so will Agnes, and I know you’ll both look after me.”
“Girls it’s me,” they heard both Agnes’s voice and the secret knock. Laura walked over and opened the door, Agnes smiling as she said “Well, are you both ready to go?”
“If you think we look alright?” Miley asked in a timid little voice.
“You look wonderful,” Agnes hugged them both. “Come on – close those cases and come with me. Adventure awaits!”
1 pm BST
that Agnes Donnie?" Will said as Donald came into the dining room, and sat
at the table.
she's just collected the girls and they are on their way to the airport."
going to drive over to Ardray so you are there when they
planning to Will."
inform Mandy you won't be here for dinner?"
"I did. I
told her Sheilagh McAdam is preparing a welcoming
feast for Agnes and the children."
Sue and the bridal party fly up?"
morning, while Colin and his friends are coming up with his family the next
do with Jeannie Brewster's grandfather to be organising a limousine service
between Prestwick and here," Will chuckled.
people have hired cars for themselves."
the Irish contingent arrive by the way?"
"Also tomorrow morning, Tam says she will make sure Agnes doesn't forget anything for once, and Tom Lardarn being such a renowned shot is going to make sure everything is perfect for the Twelfth."
“Some week ahead…”
1.45 pm BST
Heathrow Terminal 5
“Wow – it’s a busy place,” Miley said as she and Laura stood with Agnes, having cleared Security. Agnes has wondered how Mike would have made the arrangements, but when they collected their tickets a steward had shown them to the VIP security lane – and now they were looking round the vast open shopping area.
“So many people – they’re not all going on our plane are they Aggie?”
“Oh no – there are a lot of planes leave from here. Let’s go and get a drink, and then find our way to our gate.”
A short trip to the Starbucks concession, and as Miley and Laura sipped their iced drinks Agnes carried her coffee in one hand as they walked along the corridors.
“Why does everyone seem to be in a hurry?”
“I have no idea,” Aggie said with a smile as she looked at Miley, “but don’t worry. We take a seat here, and wait for our plane to be ready to board.”
“’Ow long,” Laura said as she looked round.
“Not long – a few minutes, no more than fifteen.” Reaching into her bag, she took out two magazines and handed them over, saying “here you go, read those until we hear the announcement.”
A few minutes later, the three of them walked down the narrow gangway, Aggie saying “do either of you want to have the window seat?”
“I will,” Laura said as she got in, Miley sitting next to her while Agnes made sure their lap belts were on properly, and then sat herself down as the rest of the passengers boarded. The two girls looked round nervously as the last passengers sat down, and the stewardess did the safety announcement.
“What’s happening,” Miley said as they suddenly moved backwards, Agnes smiling as she said “they’re going to go slowly to where the plane takes off.” Looking in her handbag, she gave them each a boiled sweet and said “when I give the word, put this in your mouth and suck on it.”
“Why,” Laura asked as the plane slowly joined a line, moving forward a little every few minutes.
“Trust me – you’ll thank me,” Agnes said as they heard the engine sounds when the plane turned onto the end of the runway. Miley looked round, and then Agnes said “now.” She put the sweet in her mouth, and then was pushed back as the plane suddenly accelerated, Laura and Agnes holding her hands as the plane thundered down, and then took into the air as the two girls looked at her.
“Told you,” Agnes said with a smile, Laura looking out of the window as the ground fell away, and she said “wow…”
3 pm BST
“That - that was AMAZING!” Miley grinned from ear to ear as she watched Laura put her case on the trolley, and the trio made their way out to the Arrivals hall.
“Welcome to Scotland,” Agnes said with a smile as they walked through, Laura looking round until she saw a tall, broad shouldered man with a mass of red hair and a bushy beard standing with his hands behind his back. He was wearing a tweed jacket, white shirt, tartan tie and black tartan kilt.
“Good afternoon Miss Agnes,” he said as he came forward, “and these are little Laura and Miley, correct?”
“It is indeed – girls, meet Rory, the manager of my estate. Have you got the jeep ready Rory?”
“Aye – come with me,” he said as he took the luggage trolley, winking at Miley as she said “he works for you Aggie?”
“Yup – let’s go…”
“What does he do,” Laura whispered to Aggie as they walked to the car park.
“Rory? He’s what’s called the factor, so he manages the farms and lands of Ardray, and will be in charge of some of the events this week. But right now, he’s going to drive us there in the jeep. Don’t worry, he’s not that scary, despite his looks.”
Rory looked at Miley and winked as he took the trolley to the jeep, opening the back and putting the cases in as he said “in ye all get – sooner we’re in, sooner we get ye there.”
“Yes, Mister Rory,” Miley said quietly as she and Laura got into the rear seats, Agnes getting in the front as Rory took the trolley away, and then strapped in. “Right – hame,” he said with a smile as he headed off, turning right onto the M8 as he headed for the Erskine bridge.
“It’s different from London,” Laura said as they drove down the road, “greyer.”
“Ach, that’s summer here – but ye’ll enjoy yerselves anyway,” Rory said as he drove along. “I meant to tell ye the Fort has been repaired and repainted, Miss Agnes.”
“Excellent – with some of the younger ones coming, they can make use of it,” Agnes said with a smile.
“You have a fort as well?”
“It’s a tree house,” Agnes said with a smile as Rory left the motorway and turned right, both girls looking out of the window as they crossed the Clyde, and headed west, then north, as they moved from the small towns on the outskirts of Glasgow into open country.
“Oh my lord,” Miley gasped as she saw the large blue expanse, “what is that?”
“Loch Lomond,” Rory said as they drove along the road, “over twenty miles of clear blue Scottish beauty.”
“It’s amazing,” Laura said as they made their way up the left bank, eventually passing Arduai and Inverarran before he turned left, and they made their way through the green and high hills.
An hour later, they turned off the main road, as Laura saw the sign for Ardray village, both girls then staring at the great stone house as it appeared at the end of the driveway.
“Welcome to Ardray, girls,” Agnes said with a smile as Sheilagh came out of the front doors. “Welcome home, Miss Agnes – and this would be Laura and Miley?”
“It is indeed – forgive them Sheilagh, they are a little overawed.”
“Not surprising – I always am when I come here.”
“Donald? Now this is a nice surprise,” Agnes said as she smiled, Donald walking over and kissing her as the girls giggled. “Laura, Miley, this is Lord Donald Fitzstuart, an – old and dear friend.”
“So I see Aggie,” Laura said with a smile.
“Okay – that’s my cue to bring you in,” Donald said as they walked into the large hallway, Miley looking round with her eyes wide.
“Now girls,” Agnes said as Rory brought the cases in, and closed the door, “I want you to call Sheilagh, Mrs. McAdam, and Rory, Mr. McAdam please.”
“And I’ll call you Miss Laura and Miss Miley if you don’t mind?” the housekeeper smiled at the two nervous children.
“I’m not sure it’s right a grown-up like you calling someone like me Miss, Mrs. McAdam…Are you sure?”
“It’s how we do things up here Miss Laura,” Rory intervened, “while you are a guest of Miss Aggie’s you’ll be treated like one.”
“Well as long as it’s not going to cause trouble?”
“No it’s not. When will dinner be ready Sheilagh?”
“In about two hours, Miss Agnes.”
“Good – Rory, will you bring the girls’ cases up while I show them their room?”
“Aye, Miss Agnes,” Rory said as Agnes took the girls by the arms and walked with them up the large staircase, and then along a corridor behind her factor. “Sheilagh felt they would be comfortable in here,” he said as he opened a door, Laura gasping as she saw the room with the large beds.
“A bed each?”
“This is going to be our room?” Miley said as she looked around. “Really?”
“Yes…really.” Agnes smiled as she opened a door at the side. “This is the bathroom, you’ll have to share it with my friend Paula’s two youngest daughters when they arrive tomorrow. Is that alright?”
“Agnes, this bathroom is bigger than our entire room at home,” Laura said as she looked in, and shook her head.
“Just about,” Agnes stood with her hand on her hips looking round, “but with four of you sharing it, I can assure you at times it will seem too small,” she laughed.
“No,” Laura shook her head. “We’ll make sure it’s fine.”
“Now you can put your toiletries and things in the cabinets and holders,” Aggie walked back into the bedroom, “and you can unpack your clothes as well.”
“Alright,” Mylie said as she lifted her suitcase up on to the bed and unlocked it.
“Agnes… there are someone else’s things in here,” Laura looked round as she opened a drawer.
“No there aren’t,” Agnes smiled broadly. “Those are some extra clothes I got Sheilagh to buy for you.”
“But you’ve already bought us too much.”
“Nonsense,” Agnes said as she reached in and pulled out a dark tartan skirt. “There is one of these for each of you, and it will please me a lot if you wear them while we have dinner tonight.”
“Is this your tartan Agnes?”
“It is Miley. Some people call it ‘the black rag’ because it’s so dark.”
“Well it doesn’t look like any rag I ever saw,” Laura laughed.
“Now before I forget, there is a little safe in here that you can put your little box in for safe keeping.”
“Where?” Laura looked round.
“Behind here,” Agnes lifted a picture, “and this is the combination,” she pulled a scrap of paper from her pocket and passed it to Laura.
“Now what else? Oh yes – unpack, relax, and come down for seven.”
7 pm BST
“Now don’t you girls look special?” Donald smiled as Laura and Miley came into the dining room. Both girls were wearing the skirts, Laura with a white jumper and Miley a blouse, as well as their new black shoes.
“Do we look alright?” Miley asked quietly as she looked at Agnes and Donald.
“Oh I think we can say you both look better then alright. Can’t we Sheilagh?”
“Aye I think we can at that your lordship,” Sheilagh smiled.
“Agnes suggested we wore our new shoes.”
“It’s a good idea Miss Laura…Make sure they are broken in for later in yer holiday.”
“That’s what she said.”
“Now neither of you has nae allergies do you?”
“I’m not sure what you mean?”
“She’s asking if there are any foods you can’t eat Miley?”
“No we can eat anything…we aren’t fussy.”
“Good that’s nice ter hear,” Sheilagh smiled again.
“You aren’t going to give us haggis though are you? I looked up what it was.”
“No Miss Laura, maybe next time you come to stay, but I’ll not serve it this time.”
“Thanks – I did wonder. So what are we eating?”
“Scotch broth, and then a lamb stew. Now what would you like to drink with your dinner girls?”
“Some of that whiskey?” Miley giggled.
“No I think you are still just a little too young for that,” Donald laughed as he looked at the glass.
“I know, and I had a little sip once and it tasted horrid.” The youngster screwed her face up at the memory.
“Miley likes lemonade,” Laura spoke, “and if it isn’t a lot of trouble, can I have some milk?”
“Oh I think we can do that,” Sheilagh nodded as she left the room.
“So what is it that Mr. McAdam does Agnes?”
“Well,” Agnes said as they sat in the chairs, “he both manages the estate for me and also runs Home Farm.”
“That sounds like an awful lot of hard work to me?”
“It is an awful LOT of hard work Miley,” Donald sipped his pre-dinner drink, “but I’ll bet you that Rory will tell you that there isn’t a job on earth he’d swap it for.”
“Is this picture important Agnes?” Laura stood looking at the large canvas hanging over the sideboard.
“Well it’s not a greatly valuable painting, but my Father liked it a lot.” Agnes walked over and stood next to the younger girl. “It shows Angus the Raven, one of my ancestors, leading his clan into battle at Culloden.”
“Is he the old gentleman?”
“Yes he is,” Agnes sighed, “he knew the Stuart cause was a doomed one, but to show his loyalty to James III and Prince Charles, he did what he thought was his duty.”
“Duty and honour mean an awful lot to Agnes and her family Laura.” Donald spoke quietly.
“I can understand that – so who is coming tomorrow?”
“Well, three main groups – the bridal party, so Sue and her friends with Penny and Helen; My sister and the Irish group; and then Caroline and Ama Jameson will arrive tomorrow as well.”
“Dinner is served, Miss Agnes,” Rory said as he came in.
“Good – I’m starving. Let’s eat.”
Caroline fumed as she looked at the photographs.
“So who were these two kids that the whore had brought to stay?” Catherine asked herself, “and how dare Donald, HER HUSBAND, stand there and kiss that bitch like that?”
The children she could probably find out about from her local contact, he was bound to have heard some gossip. Donald though would have to be shown the error of his ways though in being unfaithful to her like this.
seriously said that one of the Scottish national coaches is coming to watch me
play?" Ama shook her head as she sat in the
did," Caroline smiled as she bought them both coffees.
believe it," Ama looked up to check when their
flight was due to be called.
never realised Dad being born where he was might make you eligible."
already looking forward to seeing Scotland so much," Ama
sat down, "but if I am actually Scottish myself it gives me even more
incentive to love it."
great-grandparents would certainly approve," Caroline smiled again,
"I remember they both had strong Scottish accents, even though they'd
lived in England all those years."
wish I could have met them."
was only ten when they both died in that car crash."
family doesn't seem to have had a lot of luck, has it?" Ama asked with a serious look on her face.
guess we haven't if you look back."
you just going to be enjoying yourself Mom? Or are you doing some work?"
having a holiday, just like you darling."
about Dr McAdam's security?"
"It's being handled by Shirley and Penny. I'm there to help if I'm needed, but I'm hoping I won't be."
“So am I,” Ama said with a smile, “so am I…”
9 pm BST
"Alright - before we all head for bed, is everyone sure that they've packed everything they want to take to Scotland?" Paula asked as the two families sat drinking their bedtime drinks.
daughter nearly forgot a couple of things," Tamsin smiled, "but I
think I made sure we both had everything."
one who nearly forgot things?" Kit shook her head. "Who was it had to
remind you to pack your plaid skirt and kilt?"
forgotten it darling, I just hadn't..."
as you have it, then that is all that matters," Paula interrupted.
checked mine and Clodagh's cases, and we are all set," Aileen spoke,
"I can't answer for Eve though."
packed as well."
about you Lizzie?"
I'm just wishing we were all staying at the same place."
Mother wants you at Dunmarnock, and I understand
Aunt Paula," Lizzie giggled, "and at least I'll have John's company
while he hangs out with 'the men'."
any ideas about MY MAN Lizzie Arden, and I'll scratch your eyes out,"
Christine flashed her red nails at her friend.
"Now would I do anything?" Lizzie giggled.
“True – but still…”
“Enough – drink up and bed. We need to be on our way early tomorrow to be there for lunch.”
9.30 pm BST
“Do you mind if we go to bed, Aggie,” Laura said as Miley yawned and stretched her arms.
“No – on you go. There will be a lot of new people tomorrow, so best get some sleep now.”
“Good night, Lord Donald, Mrs McAdam,” Miley said as Donald nodded to them, and Aggie followed them out as Rory and Sheilagh came from the kitchen.
“Everything’s cleared away – I’ll be here first thing in the morning with the girls,” Sheilagh said.
“Good – I’ll lock up after you leave.”
are they from originally Miss?" Rory asked as he and Sheilagh
put their coats on.
from Basingstoke. Her step-father is an abuser who has somehow convinced both
her mother and the social services people that there was nothing going on. When
no one would believe her Miley ran away."
"Och that poor child," Sheilagh
shook her head, "That's terrible."
from Ipswich. Her mother is a druggy who has had a succession of low life
boyfriends. Laura doesn't open up, but I'm pretty sure at least two of them
just ran away as well?"
Rory," Agnes sniffed back some tears. "I found Miley half-starved,
frozen near to death, in an alleyway in February, and persuaded her to trust me
enough to come to the school."
already there Sheilagh. A prostitute who knows us
brought her in after she got to know her. Laura for some reason took it upon
herself to become Miley's friend and protector."
"She does Rory," Agnes shook her head, "and she puts a roof over their heads, ensures they can eat, and together they come to the school and work hard both helping and learning."
“You all right kiddo,” Laura said as she saw Miley come into the bedroom, wearing a vest top and shorts. She was at in her bed, looking at a book as the younger girl came over and sat on the bed.
“Yeah – I think so anyway,” Miley said with a smile. “It’s so quiet here.”
“I know – I heard an owl earlier, I haven’t heard one since I spent a day in London Zoo. The meal was good as well?”
“I didn’t realise how good it could taste,” Miley said, “I feel so full… It’s so nice of Aggie to do this for us Laura.”
“Yeah it is – I haven’t felt like this since…”
Laura looked at her friend, and said “yeah – yeah, I think I know what you’re going to say. It’s like they were a real mum and dad, not the monsters we both knew.”
“Do you ever think of your ma?”
“Not really – you?”
Miley shook her head as she looked at Laura. “Laura – I know we both have a bed, but…”
Laura nodded as she moved to one side. “Go on – there’s enough room in here for two…”
Agnes and Donald sat in the drawing room, side by side on a long seat as a fire blazed in front of them, the flames red on their nightcaps.
“Aggie darling,” Donald finally said, “tell me off if I’m being stupid, but did it almost feel like we were a family sitting down to eat like that?”
“No,” Agnes said as she wiped away a tiny tear, “it was almost just like how I dreamed things would be all those years ago. Me, you, our children, the good food…”
“The laughter?” Donald asked.
“Yes that too,” Agnes looked up into his eyes, “I always dreamed there would be lots of laughter.”
“All these years with Catherine,” Donald whispered as he shook his head, “I’d forgotten that there was more to life than just looking and acting correctly.”
Turning her head, Agnes whispered “was it truly that bad?”
“As I sit here looking back darling…then yes it was.” Donald sighed. “You said once that I should stay with Catherine because at least she looked like an ambassador’s wife.”
“But that was all that we really had going on. She and I both looked the part, but I guess we were only really putting in a show for other people.”
“Mandy told me that Catherine had a string of lovers…did you ever…?”
“No,” Donald shook his head, “I guess I always knew inside that there was really only one woman for me.”
“And who might she have been?” Aggie asked with a little laugh in her voice.
“Oh, just this insanely intelligent and beautiful redhead who I once knew.”
“And do you think she loved you?”
“Yes,” Donald leaned his head over to kiss her red lips; “I think she loved me with all her heart.”
“I did,” Agnes said in a tiny voice. “I loved you with every fibre of my body Donald Fitzstuart.”
“I know you did darling. If only I hadn’t been so hung up on what other people thought and said, then we might never have got into that whole mess.”
“Meaning what darling?”
“That if I hadn’t talked you out of trying modelling because I was afraid you doing so, and being in the public eye might affect my career, then you wouldn’t have taken that job at Countess Sylvie’s.”
Agnes looked at him, stroking his cheek as she said “I thought you were just talking about people’s reactions when I was unmasked as Lady D’eath?”
“Then as well…I was such a coward not daring to come to you and ask you why you’d done it.”
“No… you weren’t really a coward Donald, just normal. You acted precisely how most men would when they found out that the girl they were going to marry was a famous dominatrix.”
“I should still have trusted you that you’d only done what you had for a great reason Aggie.”
“Trust isn’t always easy my love.”
“I know,” Donald said with a sigh, “but it’s like you saying earlier that you talked to Miley and got her to trust you. I should have just talked and listened before I rushed and made the stupidest mistake of my life.”
“Donnie – I thought we agreed we were putting the past behind us, and looking forward?”
“We did – but as long as she is out there…”
Donald was taken by surprise as Agnes gently kissed him, and said “it’s late – stay tonight, even if it is in a separate bed.”
“Is that what you want?”
“No – but I do want you to stay…”
Tuesday 9th August
8.30 am BST
The New House
“Good morning,” Agnes said as she saw Laura and Miley come into the Breakfast room, both wearing jeans and jumpers, “help yourselves to fruit juice and cereal. Shelaigh is bringing some hot food in a little while. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, thank you Aggie,” Laura said as Miley put some corn flakes in a bowl, “it was just strange to hear so little.”
“It’s not London is it,” Agnes said as the girls sat down.
“Has Lord Donald left,” Miley said as she poured milk on her cereal.
“He is back with his family, yes, but he’s coming later to meet Sue and the bridal party. They should be here by about half past ten.”
“So what can we do this morning,” Laura said as she sipped her juice.
“Feel free to explore the house,” Agnes said as the door opened, and Sheilagh brought a plate with sausage, bacon, eggs and mushrooms on it. “Good morning girls – would you like some scrambled eggs this morning?”
“Yes please,” Miley said, Laura nodding in agreement as she said “you said a lot of people were arriving today?”
“Well, the ones who are staying here at any rate. Don’t worry – I’ll break you in gently.”
10.30 am BST
“Oh My God!” Kay shook her head as she looked out of the window, “no wonder you fell in love with this place Sue.”
“It is kind of special isn’t it,” the bride-to-be smiled as the car pulled up in front of The New House. “Come on, we’re here.”
“It must have broken Agnes’s heart to have ever had to sell it,” Penny whispered to herself as she stepped out of the car, Helen nodding as she looked round.
“It is a place full of history and atmosphere,” she said as she helped to take the bags out.
“There’s Agnes,” Bobbie grinned as she spotted the older woman coming down the stairs from the main doors, wearing a mustard coloured cardigan over a grey jumper and skirt. Behind her, Rory in his kilt and jumper, and three girls in white blouses and skirts followed.
“Welcome to Ardray girls,” Agnes said as she kissed them each on the cheek, “how was the flight up?”
“The flight was great Aggie,” Sue smiled, “but you should have seen the state some of these so-called friends of mine were in when they arrived at the airport.”
“You know very well I am not a morning person Sue Fletcher,” Jane shook her head.
“She really isn’t,” the tall brunette standing next to her laughed.
“Anyway I guess I better make an introduction, Lacey Snow meet Agnes McAdam.”
“It’s lovely to meet you Lacey,” Agnes smiled. “Now while Rory and the girls unload the car and take your cases in, can I offer you all coffee in the Morning Room?”
“Can we freshen up first Agnes…I really aren’t good in the mornings like I said.”
“Alright Jane, how about we say ten minutes then?”
“Sounds good to me.”
“So what are the arrangements Agnes?” Penny asked.
“Well Sue gets a room to herself of course. Helen, it’s you and Penny. Jane and Lacey, and finally Kay draws the short straw and gets Bobbie.”
“I get no luck,” Kay laughed as Bobbi nudged her in the ribs.
“Anyway as I said, Rory and the girls will show you upstairs, and I’ll see you all in ten minutes.”
“Feeling better?” Agnes asked as the girls came into the Morning Room.
“Well I am for one,” Jane smiled as she walked across the room. “Oh Wow - what a sight,” she said as she looked out the large bow windows at the view out over the loch.
“There is both coffee and tea on the sideboard ladies, serve yourself please.”
“Thanks Agnes,” Bobbie said as she went and poured herself a cup.
“So when do your sister and the Irish contingent arrive Agnes?” Sue said as she sat down.
“In about two hours,” Aggie glanced at her watch. “Now for those of you who haven’t met them, this is Miley and Laura, as well as Sheilagh McAdam my housekeeper.”
“Hello again Sheilagh,” Sue smiled, “I guess I better make the introductions. This is Kay, Jane, Bobbie, Helen, and Penny…my bridesmaids, and Lacey who is Jane’s girlfriend.”
“It’s lovely to meet you all,” Sheilagh said. “I have just had a call from Miss Tamsin to say they are about to board the plane, Miss Agnes.”
“Wonderful – any plans for the rest of the morning girls?”
12.30 pm BST
“Miss Tamsin,” Sheilagh said as Agnes stood to greet her sister.
“You’re here,” Agnes said with a smile, “and the others?”
“Been shown to their rooms. So, where are the bride and her friends then?” Tamsin asked as she sat down.
“They drove into Oban to go see the florist, and to look at the cathedral darling.” Agnes sat down next to her sister, “Sheilagh is going to serve a late lunch when they return.”
“That sounds like a good plan.”
“Is your room okay Paula?” Agnes asked as the Duke and Duchess joined the sisters.
“It’s perfect Aggie, the views out of the windows are wonderful.”
“Well traditionally that is the Laird’s bedroom…”
“Have we put you out Agnes?” the Duke interrupted.
“No you haven’t Tom,” Aggie shook her head. “I’m still happy using my old room, I can’t bring myself to move in there.”
“My sister still thinks of it very much as our parents’ room.” Tam said as she patted her sister’s hand.
“Understood,” Tom Lardarn nodded.
“So where are the girls?” Aggie asked as Paula poured some coffee.
“Unpacking, and getting to know Laura and Miley.” Paula replied.
“Did you tell them what I told you?”
“We did,” Tamsin replied, “and the girls understand I think.”
“Good, I rather hoped they would. They are all pretty wonderful.”
In the bedroom the girls were sharing, Laura looked nervously in as Aileen, Eve and Clodagh brought their washbags in.
“Is it all right that we put our bits where we did?”
“It’s fine by me Laura,” Aileen said as she finished putting her things out. “First come gets first choice of which drawers and cabinets. That’s the rule we use at school.”
“This is such a huge bathroom,” Miley spoke as she looked at them.
“You think this is big, you should see the size of my parents one at the castle…right Clodagh?”
“It is big,” the youngest girl smiled.
“I can’t believe you live in a real castle,” Miley shook her head.
“Well its actually just a very big house,” Aileen smiled, “it’s only called Lardarn Castle because its close by the ruins of the original one.”
“Agnes says that maybe this afternoon we can all go look at Ardray Castle’s ruins.” Laura spoke as they went into the girl’s room.
“My brother says it’s a beautiful place.”
“Where is he?”
“Gone to make sure his girlfriend is settled as well.”
after all those years this was an empty house we seem to have gone from famine
to feast Sheilagh,” Rory said as he sat at the large
have Rory, but it feels good that this old place has come alive again." Sheilagh wiped her forehead as she looked over from the
stove, "we always said we wanted to show what we could do."
"That we did," her husband smiled. And I think we’re doing ae good job of it.”
"So what are you up to next?"
"His Grace wants to go look at the shoot arrangements after lunch. His son is coming with us as well."
“I hear Miss Sue and the others coming back,” Sheilagh said as she heard a car approaching, “best make sure they’re ready.”
1 pm BST
“Is that Donnie heading off, Darling,” Mandy said as Angel walked into the front room.
“Err – not quite,” she said as a familiar tall figure walked in with her.
“Hello Mandy – nice to see you at home,” Missy Auerbach said as she looked round.
"Missy? I hate to ask this, but what brought you here Darling?" Mandy said as she stood up and brushed off her corduroy trousers.
"I can't just be a casual visitor?" Missy said as she took her coat off, and handed it to a maid.
but you rarely are," Will laughed.
are such cynics you know."
aren't the only ones," Olivia walked in, "I remember well enough from
the old days that when you appear Missy, that its usually because some work has
opened up and you are hunting models to do the job."
company or designer? and which of us is it you have suggested to
get even offered a drink first Mandy?"
you do," Will smiled as he poured her a whiskey.
Will, at least you have some manners."
we have manners," Mandy drawled, "but we also know this must be
something huge to get you to the wilds of Scotland..."
spill?" Olivia laughed.
Missy took a sip of her drink. "You remember three or four years ago Ralph
Lauren did a collection based in part on inspiration from Downton Abbey?"
Olivia spoke, "lots of beautiful tweeds, etc."
right," Missy took another sip, "well Maria Bucco has designed a
whole collection based on the same sort of idea."
departure for Maria darling?"
Missy nodded, "she rang me to ask about a couple of you doing a shoot
by who out of interest?"
"Justin Adams – he seemed very interested in the idea."
suggested a tweak didn't you Missy?" Olivia laughed.
might just have put it in Maria's mind that there is a host of wonderful
models, and very appropriate locations currently in Scotland..."
that Justin, Maria, and a horde of her people..."
"Plus the clothes will be descending upon us...When darling?" Mandy rolled her eyes.
“Descend is such a horrible word – but they arrive tomorrow, with an eye to shooting Thursday. Interested?”
1 pm BST
“Miss Elizabeth is here…”
“Mummy! Grandmother!” Liz all but squealed as she walked in and hugged the two elder women.
“Well you certainly seem happy to be here darling,” Lady Elizabeth smiled, “and there was I thinking all these years that you didn’t really like Scotland.”
“Oh I love it when I’m here with both of you.”
“So is everyone safely at Ardray?”
“They are,” Lizzie smiled, “and thank you for sending Thomas to collect me Gran.”
“Well he has his uses,” Elizabeth smiled.
“You’d be lost without him Elizabeth.”
“I probably would Catriona, but don’t tell him that please, he already has an inflated opinion of himself.”
“So who else is staying here?”
“Apart from the menfolk? Shirley, John and Maisha will arrive tomorrow.”
“Shirley Xavier? I look forward to meeting her and her ward – they sound fascinating people…”
2 pm BST
The New House, Ardray
“Miss Caroline and Miss Ama Jameson,” Sheilagh said as she showed Ama and Caroline into the dining room.
“You made it,” Penny said as she came over and hugged them. “Join us for some lunch?”
“Thank you,” Ama said as she looked round.
“Can you put Miss Caroline’s and Miss Ama’s things in their room please Rory?”
“Aye that I can do Miss Agnes.”
“This is a beautiful house Agnes,” Caroline said as she looked round. “I can see little details that I’ve seen in houses in Italy and France.”
“Well the first Earl lived most of his life there until he made his peace with the House of Hannover, I don’t think it’s surprising that he made little suggestions of things he’d seen and liked to his architect.”
Looking over, she said “Ama, this is Laura and Miley, two of my girls from the school. We were going to take them up to the old castle, once Donald gets here. Will you both join us?”
“I’d be delighted to,” Ama said as they sat down, Sheilagh bringing some drinks and food.
“You’re Caroline Jameson’s daughter,” Laura asked as Miley looked curiously at Ama.
“She is my adopted mother,” Ama said with a smile, “I will explain it all later.”
“Am I interrupting?”
“Of course not,” Tamsin said as Lord Donald came in, “we’re just having some tea before we split into parties.”
“I’m going to walk the moor with Rory,” Tom Gaunt said, “want to join me Donald?”
“No – I understand I am helping the girls to see the Old House instead.”
3.30 pm BST
The party walked round the ruins, the girls wearing coats, Agnes and the older women with scarves round their necks, as Donald stood and smiled.
“Are the ruins haunted Agnes?” Miley stood and looked up at the ruined tower.
“Well speaking personally I’ve never seen nor heard anything, but a lot of the villagers from Ardray tell stories of seeing strange lights, and hearing strange noises as they have passed here at night.”
“It’s as atmospheric as our old castle, and the hanging tree,” Eve observed. “Just like them these old stones have seen a lot of terrible things.”
“This place is so beautiful though,” Laura stood at the waterside, “I hate to think about all that kind of stuff.”
“Violence and hatred are never nice topics Laura,” Sue smiled, “And if I could I’d banish them entirely while we all here in Scotland.”
“And I think we would all willingly say Amen to that,” Paula sat down on a rock.
“Yes we would Paula,” Donald wrapped an arm round Agnes, “let us all just relax and enjoy both Sue’s wedding, and our other activities.”
“He means shooting lots of birds,” Clodagh whispered in Miley’s ear.
“I know,” Miley smiled.
“Now I want to get some photographs,” Caroline called out. “Can I get Donald and you Agnes, along with Miley and Laura please?”
“Like this?” Donald asked as he wrapped one arm round Agnes, the other round Laura, while Agnes put her spare arm round Miley.
“Perfect,” Caroline smiled as she clicked off a few frames.
“How dare they?” Catherine grated her teeth as she saw Donald, the whore, and the brats posing for pictures. “They’re not a family, they never will be.”
She tightened her grip on the binoculars, her rage keeping the chill of the light wind out. She needed to strike and end this – soon…
“Do you see her?”
The dark skinned woman nodded as she looked through her own binoculars at the woman lying on the hilltop.
“Is it her?”
“I am not sure – and she is too far away to get a picture to confirm, but we will follow, we will observe – inform Leader.”
“Now who are they,” Cho mused as she looked at the two women sitting on the hilltop, and then turned her binoculars to the castle ruins…
“Did you see that lady who was watching us Agnes?” Miley asked as they walked back to the car.
“What lady Miley?”
“The one with the binoculars, she was following us I think.”
“No I didn’t – but if you see her again, tell me, all right?”
Miley nodded as she looked over the hills, then walked with the others to the cars.
can I have a word please?" Agnes said as they walked into the main
hallway, the girls chatting as they went to the breakfast room.
"Dominique," Aggie whispered as they went into the empty room, "Miley saw a woman with binoculars watching us. Was that security? Or is Catherine out there?"
“I know some are out there – and we know Catherine was heading in this direction,” Caroline whispered. “I’ll try and find out, but don’t worry Agnes – Penny and the others will have this in hand. Let me talk to her.”
5 pm BST
from Scotland Madame?" Jayne Pettigrew asked as she put the evening report
on Shirley's desk.
today’s arrivals all got there safely, and Lily’s team are on stand by," Shirley said as she glanced over the
"Any sign of Lady Catherine?
“Not yet, but that does not mean much… We travel north tomorrow, but I can be contacted via the secure network if required.”
“Of course, Madame – safe travels…”
5 pm BST
Catriona closed the door to her study and then answered the phone.
"Anything to report Cho?"
"Yes My Lady,” the cultured Chinese voice said, “we think she was watching the New House party while they visited the castle ruins."
"SHIT!" Catriona swore. “Anything else?”
“I do not think we are the only ones watching. I saw two hillwalkers looking in the same direction as me through binoculars, and then at the ruins. Would any other interested parties be here?”
Catriona thought for a moment, and then said “I am unaware of others, but I suspect there may be. Call tomorrow at the same time, and remain vigilant – I will have an answer then.”
7 pm BST
“It’s a business call Piet – give me five minutes,” Charlotte said as she went into the front room, and closed the door, then answered the call.
“This is Little Mother.”
“Greetings Little Mother,” she heard Leader said, “reporting as agreed.”
“She is in the area, but we could not get close. One team is looking for clues as to her movements after a sighting, and will report by sundown.”
“Good – remain vigilant, Leader.”
“Little Mother, are there other security teams in place here?"
"I'm not sure....why?"
“Our team also saw a lone woman watching the party.”
“I see – let me consult, I will answer tomorrow.”
Wednesday 10th August
10.30 am BST
Near Dunmarnock House
Maisha stared out of the window of the car as the sunshine came down into the valley, bouncing off the road. Wearing a grey hoodie, blue denim jeans and ankle boots, she knew it was different from her home, very different from London, but still magnificent.
“So how long is it since you were last here Aunt Shirley?” she asked as she looked forward.
Shirley turned and smiled as she said “To visit Maisha? Or for a shooting party?”
“A shooting party?”
“When I was 17, Cat’s father invited mine up for the 12th. That would have been the last time.”
“You know,” Maisha said with a smile, “I have a hard job imagining you as a teenager Aunt Shirley.”
“Because you are so perfect as you are now, it’s strange thinking you were once different.”
Shaking her head, Shirley laughed and said “I’m not sure if that is a compliment or not?”
“It’s a compliment darling,” John smiled, “the you of today is so wonderful, it’s hard as Maisha says to ever imagine you as anything else.”
“Oh,” Shirley blushed, “well I was just a really ordinary 17 year old getting ready for my final year at Cheltenham, my A levels looming on the horizon, and hoping so much I’d get into Cambridge. Into Wham, Haircut 100, bands like that – just a typical Eighties teenager really.”
“Is that where we are staying,” Maisha said as she saw the large stone house appear.
“It is indeed – it looks the same today as it did then,” Shirley said as the car came to a halt outside the main doors, and she stepped out, smiling as she saw the older woman come out with the teenager.
“Hello Shirley it’s been a while,” Lady Elizabeth said as she kissed the younger woman on the cheek.
“It has Elizabeth,” Shirley smiled, “but you so rarely get to London, and I even more rarely get to Scotland.”
“I know,” Elizabeth turned her attention to the others, “now who is this?”
“This is my ward Maisha, and of course you know John.”
“Of course I do,” Elizabeth said as she let the photographer kiss her on the cheek. “It’s going to age me dreadfully but I’ve known John more or less since he was a baby.”
“Hush,” John laughed, “we can do without facts like that becoming public.”
“Maisha is the girl I was telling you about Gran,” Lizzie hugged the black girl.
“The one who was…”
“Yes I was taken as a slave Lady Sithwell,” Maisha smiled, “I’m not ashamed of the word.”
“I was actually going to say lucky enough to be adopted by as wonderful a woman as Shirley. I also hear you are a tennis fanatic?”
“Oh that I am,” Maisha grinned, “and strictly speaking Aunt Shirley hasn’t adopted me Lady Sithwell, she’s legally just my guardian.”
“It’s just a slightly different word Maisha,” Elizabeth was the one to smile this time, “and call me Aunt Elizabeth please.”
“All right Aunt Elizabeth,” Maisha said with a smile as Mr Bannerman came to help with the bags.
“Well, come in, we’ll sort some coffee out and have a chat…”
“So when do the menfolk arrive,” John said.
“Early tomorrow morning, so we have the place to ourselves a little while longer…”
“Maisha – Liz is going over to Kilcraig house for a pool party and barbecue, and to meet some of the other girls. Would you like to go?”
“If I may – I will see my sister Ama there as well,” Maisha said as Shirley nodded in agreement.
“Good – they leave after lunch, if you need to sort out a costume,” Elizabeth said as she and Maisha left the room, Shirley smiling as she heard the older woman say “Catriona – Shirley is in the drawing room.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here to meet you when you arrived Shirley,” Cat said as she hugged her best friend, “I had to go and look at a couple of arrangements.”
“I understand,” Shirley said as Catriona put her tweed jacket on the back of a chair, went to the sideboard and poured herself a cup of coffee, “Elizabeth and Lizzie gave us a wonderful welcome, and Mr. and Mrs. Bannerman made sure that we got to the right rooms.”
“So anything I need to know?” Shirley asked quietly as she sat down next to her friend on the drawing room sofa.
“Only that we are sure Catherine is here close by.”
Catriona nodded as she said “are they only ones out there?”
“That I know off? Possibly not, but I could neither confirm or deny it,” Shirley said with a smile. “I know there are Special Branch and MI5 out there, for the royal guests – and some others…”
“So what you’re saying is, a lot of concerned parties are looking for her?”
Shirley nodded as she said “Including Mike Babbage – I believe he arrives later today as well to take a cottage.”
1 pm BST
know it's probably a long time since you played a venue quite this small
George, but I'm hoping it's okay?"
is fine Kay," the female impersonator smiled as he looked round,
"when I started in this racket I played many more worse places then this. Even with that Highland feel, it will be
way I hope the hotel is okay?"
darling, and this area is beautiful. I
know I can’t be with you lot and Sue for this trip…"
Aggie said come stay with her at Ardray."
time I needed to be out of the way so as not to spoil the bride-to-be's
do things look?" George asked one of the two men with him.
"It's a standard lighting and sound board boss, we can do a rehearsal later, but it should be fine."
“Great – let’s go and get some lunch, and then we can get to work…”
1.30 pm BST
Laura laughed as Aileen jumped into the swimming pool, splashing her and Ama as Maisha walked round in her red swimsuit.
“Maisha darling,” Mandy said as she kissed her and Liz on the cheek, “welcome, feel free to swim or relax, I’m sure the boys will have food ready – eventually.”
“Aunt Amanda, have a little faith,” Mick Harran said as he stood at the barbecue while Angel, Fi, Nell and Ally sat at a poolside table, wearing sunglasses as they sipped their drinks.
“He does seem at home there,” Nell said as she looked over.
“He is man, see him chargrill,” Fiona said with a smile.
“Greetings sister – how was your journey,” Ama said as Maisha slipped into the water.
“Very pleasant – will you introduce me?”
“Of course – Laura, this is Maisha, my – well, really my sister. Maisha, Laura is a student at Agnes’ school with young Miley over there, and they are staying with her for a holiday.”
“It is very good to meet you,” Maisha said with a smile, “are you enjoying your visit so far?”
“We are actually – where do you know Agnes from?”
“Aunt Shirley is an old friend, and she has been my tutor in business studies for the last two years.”
“What did you do before that?”
Maisha and Ama looked at each other, before Ama said “we were both sold as slaves – in the thrall to someone else. I’m not sure if you understand that…”
“Actually, I do – but you were freed?”
“We were – as you have been as well, if Agnes has taken you under her wing,” Maisha said with a smile.
“Hello Pepsi – I see you have been enjoying your holiday as well,” Ama said as Pepsi and Liz joined them.
“Oh yes – but I’m actually starting to look forward to getting back and facing the music. You must be Laura, I’m Pepsi, Jack’s fiancé.”
“She means Lord Millingham, the tall boy over there,” Liz said with a smile.
“Oh – right…”
“I still can’t get used to what we’re doing,” Miley said as she sat with Edwina and Clodagh. All three girls has shorts on over their swimming costumes.
“What – having a party by the pool on a sunny day?”
“Just been here – for a kid of the streets like me, this is another world.”
“Mummy told me the secret is to forget everything except one thing – we’re just people,” Clodagh said quietly.
“True – so, want to grab a burger?”
“Look at them,” Will said as she stood with Donald, Tom and Charles, “we really do have a UK branch now.”
“Of the Saints and Sinners? I think so,” Tom said Billy and Charlie approached the younger girls with a water gun, making them shriek as they fired on them and then ran off.
“Oh he’s for it now,” Charles said with a smile as Fiona looked at him, and then shook her head. “Maybe not now, but later.”
David was walking down the upper corridor when he glanced out of the windows, smiling as he saw the others laughing and having fun – and then he looked out to the surrounding hills. The clouds were moving slowly across the sky, and then he saw a glint of light.
No – two glints in the nearby hills.
Three glints and they all seemed to be coming from something facing the house. He looked out for a few more minutes, but they were too far away to make out who or what they may be…
“RIGHT! Food’s ready,” Mick said as Miley and Laura came over.
“You’re really Mick Harran?”
“Well, so my parents say,” Mick said with a smile. “You’re Agnes’ girls, right? I’ll catch up with you later, answer any questions you have.”
“Wow,” Miley whispered as the girls walked over to join Agnes, Donald, Tamsin, Kit and John at a table. Sitting down, Agnes smiled as they looked at each other, and then started to eat.
“Slow down,” Donald said with a smile, “you don’t want to make yourself sick do you?”
“I am afraid we do not have any strawberries,” Pepsi said to Maisha.
“Not important – I am enjoying the time nonetheless,” Maisha said with a smile.
“I heard you may be taking a trip soon,” Ama whispered.
“Indeed – but before I do, I hope to see you and Uma when you come to play football again.”
“That would be good,” Ama said as she sipped her drink.
5 pm BST
“Thanks again, Lady Ordford,” Laura said as she got into the car, Agnes waving and saying “see you later” as they drove off.
"Well I think the younger people all enjoyed themselves darling." Mandy stood and waved as the last car departed.
"It's the huge advantage of having a swimming pool here," Will said as he put his arm round his wife.
"The girls from Aggie's school were a little shy at first, but they soon joined in."
noticed." Mandy stopped and took a
breath, "was it just my imagination Will, or did Aggie, Donald and the
girls almost look like a family?"
"I must confess that for a few seconds I though the same thing." Will smiled, "and I'm willing to bet we weren't the only ones to see it."
“You don’t suppose…”
“As long as she’s out there, Mandy, he’s not even going to think about it, but I have to say – they do make each other complete.”
you have fun girls?" Agnes asked as they drove down the road.
Aggie," Laura laughed, "and thank you for the bathing costumes."
couldn't have you going to a pool party with nothing to wear."
have had one more thing to eat I think I'd have popped," Miley said as she
rubbed her stomach. “And I like Edwina
and Clodagh as well.”
Mick seems to be a great cook behind a grill."
is," Laura shook her head, "and I can't believe that after meeting
Orion, we actually got to meet Mick Harran."
"He is so
good looking," Miley sighed.
"You now have some more autographed pictures to hang up." Agnes smiled, "with a couple of the women who model also signing pictures for you."
“True – you know some amazing people Aggie…”
6 pm CET
“So why are you
staying with Sir Simon and Lady Fiona Moms?" Ingrid asked as Juliette
checked her phone.
as Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office he has a full time security
detail, and the Brits thought it better that your father and I, as well as
Terri and Rudi, and a couple of other people, should stay at Invermuir where we could be watched over."
logical," Annie said as she looked up from feeding Mags.
worried about leaving you girls alone."
we have Frau Strecher to look after us," Annie
Juliette laughed as well, "we couldn't really be leaving you in safer
hands could we?"
"No," Ingrid stood up, "So while you go to Scotland, and Cari and the girls race, Annie, me, Aunt Sigi, and Frau Strecher can finalise the Christening arrangements."
“Good – this summer has flown by if truth be told. Home soon…”
7 pm BST
“Well, looks as if you are about ready to go,” John said as he saw Shirley and Catriona come into the room, both wearing blouses and skirts.
going to be alright here on your own John darling?"
I am Shirley." John smiled. "I'm going to have a little dig in
Catriona's library to find something worthwhile to read, I'm going to have a
couple of glasses of her best whiskey, and I'm going to have a lovely quiet
long as you are sure?"
"I am, you and the other ladies go and have fun at Sue's party."
7 pm BST
The New House, Ardray
“Miss Agnes, there is a telephone call for you,” Sheilagh said as Agnes walked down the main staircase, wearing a blue blouse and jeans.
“Thank you, Sheilagh,” she said as she took the handset, smiling at Tamsin and Kit as they came down. “Agnes McAdam?”
“Good evening Miss Agnes – sorry to disturb you at home,” she heard the local shopkeeper say.
evening to you as well Mrs McDonald," Aggie said as she sat down,
"and what can I do for you?"
I ought to ring and tell you Miss Agnes that three or four people came into the
shop today saying they had seen strange things out by the old castle."
McDonald,” Agnes said with a smile, “you know as well as I do that all those
stories relating to the castle are just legends."
I know that, you know that, but when it’s the Minister saying that he saw
strange lights, and some kinda creature out there,
well then people listen?"
Reverend Johnstone said he saw something?"
"Last night, he drove out to see Mrs McLeod, she's not doing very well, and on his way back, he saw some lights round the old castle, and then this ghostly figure appeared, and then he says just vanished."
“I see,” Agnes said as Caroline came down, “well, I’m sure it’s nothing, but thank you for telling me. Have a good evening.” As Penny joined Caroline, she stood up and said “I need to talk to both of you.”
“What’s happened Agnes,” Penny said as they went into a room.
“That was Mrs McDonald – someone’s been up at the ruins after dark. Do you know who it might be?”
“I fear who it might be – Penny?”
“I don’t know, but…”
“Forgive me Miss Agnes – we have a visitor. She came by the back door.”
“Who is it Sheilagh,” Agnes said.
“A Miss Karen Kumalo – she says you might have been expecting her?”
Penny and Caroline looked at each other as the young African woman came in, and said “forgive me for arriving unannounced Agnes, but I felt I was needed here.”
“Okay – now I am really worried,” Agnes said, “who else is out there watching me?”
“Good friends,” Karen said with a smile. “Am I interrupting a night out?”
“No – you’re coming with us,” Penny said as Helen came in, “we’ll bring you up to speed.”
unfair that Kits and Eve get to go and I don't," Aileen looked ready to breath
fire as she looked at her mother.
darling," Paula hugged her middle daughter, "but someone has to stay
and help Sheilagh keep an eye on Clodagh, Miley, and
be alright...Mummy PLEASE can I go?"
aren't helping darling."
"I'm as grown-up as you are Eve Gaunt," Aileen glared at her sister.
“I can see that - but it’s not my choice, it’s the venue Aileen. The law is the law here.”
“All right – but I don’t like it. I’ll see if the others want to watch something with me,” she said as she went off.
“Right – let’s go…”
8 pm BST
“George darling thank you so much for doing this,” Aggie smiled as she looked round the tiny dressing room.
“Lady,” George said as he looked over, “for you I’d do anything, and you know that.”
“I know, and I’m eternally grateful.”
“And anyway knowing her story now, Sue deserves only the best herself.”
“Agreed,” Agnes smiled again, “you know seeing you do your makeup like this brings up a lot of old memories.”
“Well it has to be literally plastered on nowadays.”
“Lady, my love,” George sighed, “you are still just as stunningly naturally beautiful as you were that very first day at Sylvie's.”
“Flatterer – I need to be outside for the surprise. I’ll see you in a little while.” Agnes went out, closing the door as she went into the hall, where the other women were gathered.
“Right, she’s on her way,” Bobbie said as she looked at her phone, “lights off everyone!”
“All right – where are we,” Sue said as she was walked down the road, a black scarf covering her eyes as Jane and Kay held her arms, and Bobbie walked in front.
“That would be telling,” Kay said with a smile as Bobbie opened the door to the hotel, some of the customers smiling as they led the young woman along the hallway. “And we will tell you – in a minute or two.”
“I told you girls – no strippers!”
“We know, and I guarantee there are no strippers,” Jane said as they led her into the darkened room, Bobbie closing the door as the blindfold was taken away.
Sue smiled as she looked at the assembled ladies, before saying “all right – whatever is going to hit me, hit me with it!”
“Have a seat,” Roberta said as Sue was guided to a table near the stage, as Kay went to the microphone.
“Okay girls – we all know why we’re here, right?”
“Well, sit back, drink, be merry,” she said as Sue was passed a glass of wine, “and give it up for the one, the only, the legend that is – GORGEOUS GEORGINA!”
“What the…” Sue clapped with the others as George came to the stage, wearing a long silver dress, hugging her chest as the long blonde hair fell over her shoulders.
“Well, hello everyone,” he said as he looked out across the room, “this is a gathering – nobility mixing with the real elite of society. If Jeremy Corbyn was allowed in, I don’t know if he’d be lynched or praise social equality!
“But I promise, not too many political jokes – when you look at politics here and abroad these days, it’s one big joke anyway! Ladies – no gentlemen – I am Georgina, and I am here to entertain you. Take it away Michael darling!”
The other man at the side of the stage nodded as he started to play a tune, George taking the microphone as he started to sing I Am What I Am as the women cheered.
“Thank you, thank you,” George said as she sent kisses over the audience. “So here we are, in the middle of nowhere, and the doors are locked – seriously girls, I know this is not the entertainment capital of the UK, but all those big strong men outside…
“Anyway, let’s see what we have here… I see we have the shining lights of the Gresham-Fox family here. Lady Roberta,” she said as she went into a curtsey, “I trust you will forgive me if I take the opportunity to ask for a pardon in advance – I will offend you.”
“How?” Roberta called out.
“By quoting The Art of The Deal – the best and softest toilet paper ever made,” he said with a grin as he walked round. “And that’s just as pricy as the other stuff. I see we have Caroline Jameson with us tonight, with her daughter – Continuing her education, dear?”
“She needs to experience life in all its beauty – and Courtney says hello Georgette.”
“Well, she is as beautiful as you in a different way,” George says as he walked over and looked at Sue’s table. “You I remember,” George smiled at Jane, “let’s hope that the superglue on the seat keeps you in it this time.”
Jane blushed as her friends laughed. “Last time we met, she slipped out of her pants and got out – this time, we put the glue on the inside as well.”
“By the way, you know why Scotsmen wear nothing under their kilts? FREEDOM!”
As the room laughed, he looked to where Catriona was sitting with Shirley and Maisha. “We have top legal advice here as well – always useful if we run foul of the local constabulary.”
“I thought you’d paid them off already George,” Catriona shouted out.
“In kind my dear – I told them where the whiskey was kept,” George said with a wink as he walked round.
"Sue, did the girls ever warn you that men are like car parking spots?"
"No," Sue smiled.
"Well they are darling, the good ones are always taken by the time you get to them, while the free ones are usually very small," George smiled while the women laughed, "and dear I do speak from personal experience."
He made his way round, the jokes getting bluer before he said "Now the club has laid on some excellent food for us all tonight, but just remember this Sue if you think the way to Colin's heart is through his stomach, darling you are looking just a tad too far up his anatomy."
As they laughed, George said “I will be back in a little while, and remember, what happens in this room…”
“STAYS IN THIS ROOM!”
He blew a kiss and walked off as the women got up and walked around.
Karen just turned up earlier?" Penny asked as the women stood talking and
eating while George took his break.
know from what Charlotte has said that that means that mystical thing inside
her has alerted her this is where she might be needed."
and I need to talk to her later and find out what she senses and knows?"
then," Caroline smiled as her daughter and Maisha approached carrying a
tray of drinks. "Well darling enjoying yourself?"
"My ribs are hurting from laughing so much," Ama grinned, "He, or should I say she? is hilarious."
promised you no strippers and no loud music," Kay smiled at her friend.
know," Sue smoothed out her bride-in-training sash, "and this is just
Agnes you need to thank, she was the one suggested I ask George."
George was brilliant to come and do this."
"I wonder what he has in mind for the second-half," Helen actually grinned, "I forget when I last laughed so much."
hen parties like this Mummy?" Eve asked.
totally," Paula smiled, "most people don't get a world famous
entertainer like Georgette come and perform."
"What was yours like Aunt Paula?" Kits asked.
loud music, lots of laughter as well, but looking back someone was missing who
should have been there."
Christine darling, and if you ask both your Aunts Mandy and Olivia..."
"Yes...They'll all agree that we regret that was Agnes wasn't there to share it with us."
are closed tonight," the bouncer smiled, "there's a private
party going on. Come back tomorrow night."
the woman said as she shook her head and walked away, then watched from the
So many of the people she hated all together in the same place, Catherine smiled inwardly. It was a tempting target, but she had other plans, The whore and her friends would get their comeuppance. She walked back to her car, and then a thought occurred to her.
Colin having a stag party Sue?"
Tom have organised something organised at the Cavalry and Guards club tonight,
and I don't even want to think what they have planned for Colin." Sue
shook her head.
as they get my son safely here tomorrow, let the men have their fun," Lady
Roberta sipped some champagne.
"Agreed," Bobbie nibbled some food. "We are having our fun, let them enjoy themselves."
9 pm BST
Cavalry and Guards Club, 127 Piccadilly
“TO COLIN!” the room shouted out as Sir Simon toasted the groom to be, Jimmy and Tom at his side at the head of the dining table as he stood up.
“Gentlemen,” he said in a slightly slurred voice, “I wish to thank you for the find dinner, the wonderful wince and brandy, the excellent company – and the fear of not knowing what might be next to walk through the door of this dining room!”
The New House
if Sue's party is as much fun as swimming was this afternoon?" Miley asked
as the younger girls sat round the big kitchen table.
"Did you have
such a party Mum?” Morag asked as she sipped her cocoa.
nothing as big and fancy as they are doing for Miss Sue," Sheilagh sat down and wiped her hands. "Your Aunt
Caitlin and a few of the girls hired a room at the Shinty
Club, and we had a wee party there."
a male stripper?" Laura asked.
Sheilagh blushed, "I'm not sure Rory would have
did you do?"
"Och we danced, and we laughed, and my so-called sister got
me drunk Miss Miley," Sheilagh said as she shook
"It sounds fun," Laura laughed.
“It was a long time ago,” she said as she put her mug down. “At any rate – to bed young ladies. Tomorrow more people are arriving!”
“No mum, young ladies – up you go and get ready. Morag, we need to get going.”
“I’ll lock up behind you,” Laura said as the other girls headed up, and Sheilagh put the mugs into the dishwasher.
From her car, she watched as Sheilagh got into the car with her daughter and drove off, while the lights went off in the house.
Catherine spoke to herself, "with so many people in Oban, who is here
protecting the children?"
She'd spent the entire time driving back from checking out the club in Oban dreaming of things she'd like to do to these kids, and the hurt and pain that it would cause The Whore.
“She’ll never forgive herself,” she said as she picked up the long, thin knife and got out of the car, walking slowly over to the windows of the breakfast room across the courtyard. As she turned the corner, she stopped to look up at the lone light in the upper floors, before it went off.
“Showtime,” she whispered to herself as she turned the corner, not paying attention to the sounds behind her as a van came up the driveway, the lights dimmed.
“Finally,” the redhead said as she stopped the van, “that was…”
“Kill the lights.”
She looked at the small blonde sitting next to her, and turned the engine off, as well as the headlights as her passenger looked out of the windscreen.
sure… What the hell is going on?"
Kylie whispered to herself as she sat in the darkened truck looking into the
gloom trying to make sense of what her eyes were seeing.
It had been a
hell of a journey up with the van that she had borrowed from Madame's people
breaking down twice. She was missing Sue's hen party, she was tired, her temper
was frayed, and she had finally arrived at Ardray to
spot what looked to her trained eyes someone perhaps trying to break in.
“Did you see it?”
“I saw something, but it’s so dark…”
Linda," she ordered the girl who had driven her up, "I'm going to see
who that is."
said you are in charge Kylie."
As quietly as she could Kylie undid the passenger side door and slipped out, crouching for a few moments as she started to allow her eyes to adjust to the darkness. It was so quiet, with the birdsong, and…
Had she heard a
vehicle approaching? Catherine scanned the parking area. There were none with
lights on, and she hadn't counted the number before so she couldn't tell if one
was a fresh arrival.
"Damn," she said as she tried to think the situation through. If a car or van had arrived there would be signs of activity surely? All looked just as it had a few minutes ago though. Maybe she was just hearing things? She turned round and made her way to the windows.
Slowly Kylie withdrew the long stiletto knife from her boot. It wasn't her weapon of choice, but it was silent, it was deadly, and in a situation where she couldn't even be truly sure that someone hostile was out there, then it was extremely practical.
Slowly, she walked across to the grass verge and then made her way round the side of the house, looking carefully towards the house as she did so. As she watched, she saw the shadows move, and then a figure by the large windows.
“Shit,” she said quietly as she walked forward, her body crouched and taut as she saw whoever it was trying to force the hasp of the window. She heard the click, and the quiet laugh – and then she jumped forward, wrapping her arm round the throat of whoever it was and pulling her back as she waved her knife.
“I do not know who you are, I do not know why you are here,” she whispered quietly, “but you should know you have made a grievous error this night.”
Catherine reached up and grabbed the arm, then tried to twist round as she threw her other arm back. Kylie saw the gleam in the moonlight, however, and ducked out of the way, the blade missing her by inches as she threw Catherine to the ground.
“You’re a dead woman,” she whispered.
“And you are a fool,” Kylie said quietly as she stood, crouched, the knife in her hand as she looked at her. They watched each other for a moment, before Catherine ran forward, the arm raised as Kylie watched, and then ducked to one side, catching Catherine’s arm with her blade as she did so.
Catherine cried out as she dropped the blade, putting her hand to her arm and feeling the warm blood as the lights went on upstairs. “Who’s there,” a young girl called out as Catherine looked at her, and then turned, running towards the woods.
“Kylie? What’s happened?”
The young blonde turned and looked at Linda as she walked round, and then bent down, putting her finger to the ground and looking at the red stain.
“Who’s out there,” an Irish voice said as Kylie looked up.
“Is that you, Aileen darling?”
“Kylie? What happened?”
“We were delayed – sorry if we woke you. Is it possible to get in? I could do with some coffee and a snack.”
“Is someone out there,” Laura said as she looked out of the same window.
“Laura, this is Kylie Mitchell. We’ll come down and let you in.”
“Thank you darlings,” she said with a smile as the two younger girls went in, and then she looked at Linda. “Get a cloth from the van and keep this knife – we need to show this to Dominique in the morning. And call Lilian – it’s time she was here.”
“Got it,” Linda said as she went off, and Kylie looked round. “If I am right, you are watching, and did not interfere because I am here. She is wounded, and there is a blood trail. There may not be much you can do tonight, but it is a start. The Swan wishes you good hunting.”
She smiled as she walked off towards the front, as the door opened and Aileen and Laura looked out. “I’ll put the kettle on,” she said as Linda walked back, and then opened the back of the van.
“Can you give me a hand Aileen darling – it has been a long day,” Kylie said as she walked to the back of the van.
“Sure – why are you so late,” Aileen said as she helped to carry some dress bags.
“The van needs a service – but it was just a bad day to journey,” Kylie said as she walked in. The contrast between the young Irish girl, in her dressing gown and slippers, and Kylie in her denim jacket, jeans and keen length boots, was clear to the others as they walked down.
“You really are Kylie Mitchell?”
“So I am told – and you are?”
“Kylie, this is Laura – and that’s Mylie coming down the stairs. They go to the Soho school.”
“Ah,” Kylie said as she took off her glasses and wiped them, then put them back on. “I am so sorry if I woke you darlings – but at the same time, Linda and I could do with a hot drink.”
“Why were you under the window, Kylie – it looked as if you were with someone there.”
“Oh that – I was shadow dancing. I thought I had seen someone, but it was a wildcat.”
“A real wildcat? Wow,” Mylie said as Clodagh walked down the stairs, rubbing her eyes.
“What’s going on?”
“I guess we’re all up for a while,” Laura said with a sigh. “Who wants another drink?”
“Let me help you – I’ve locked the van with everything else inside Kyles, and our bags are here.”
“Thank you, Linda darling. Listen – why don’t we go into the kitchen, and set the world to rights there once more…”
11.30 pm BST
The New House, Ardray
“Now that was an amazing night,” Sue said as she opened the main doors and the party came in, Ama shaking her head as she walked with her mother.
“It really was – Kylie! You finally got here!”
“I apologise for missing your evening, Sue darling,” Kylie said as she kissed the bride to be, “but I see you enjoyed yourself anyway.”
“We all did,” Agnes said, “when did you arrive?”
“A short while ago – Laura was kind enough to arrange some coffee and snacks for us, given they had only just got to bed when we arrived. And this is?”
“Oh – Karen Kumalo, Kylie Mitchell.”
“We met in passing in Naples,” Karen said as she kissed Kylie on both cheeks, and then looked at her. “What has happened,” she whispered.
Kylie smiled and said “I will see you in the morning. Caroline, may I discuss the security of the dresses with you?”
“I could do with a warm drink. Anyone else?”
“We are going to bed,” Agnes said as she and Tamsin led their families up the stairs.
“We’re going as well – good night everyone,” Sue said, Penny saying “I’ll be up in a minute” to Helen.
“Let’s talk in the kitchen,” Caroline said as she, Kylie, Penny and Karen made their way through. As she put the kettle on, Caroline said “what happened?”
“May I speak frankly?”
“Karen is part of our security team, Kyles – talk.”
“Very well then – when we arrived, I disturbed a potential intruder.
“A female one.”
Caroline and Penny looked at her, before Penny said “Catherine? HERE?”
“I think so – she had a weapon, but so did I. We tussled, I wounded her, and she ran off when the girls opened a window upstairs.”
“She’s gone after the kids again?”
“Has she done this before?”
Caroline nodded as she handed the drinks out, and said “oh yes – did you see Kit’s arm in a cast? And then there was Edwina Treharran.”
guess in a way it was fortuitous that the van did break down like that
least it ensured that you were in the right place at the right time to thwart
Goddess darling. From what you say, if
she had got in…"
are sure you wounded her?"
you the knife in the morning."
didn't tell the girls what had happened?"
Kylie shook her head, "they are better off not knowing what is going on I
"Agreed. But we need to tell Agnes and the other adults tomorrow."
there watchers out there darling?"
it this way Kylie, there should have been," Caroline sipped her bed time
first light they should have a blood trail they can start to follow."
"A wounded animal is always the most dangerous kind," Karen spoke softly, "someone needs to tell our friends to be extra careful."
“We will, we will…”
Thursday 11th August
8 am BST
The New House, Ardray
“Keep it down, Agnes,” Caroline said as Agnes stood up, Tamsin and Paula looking on with white faces.
“Are you sure Kylie?”
“I am sure someone tried to get into the house last night, I am sure it was a woman, and I am sure I wounded her. I believe it was Lady Fitzstuart, but cannot be absolutely certain,” Kylie said quietly. “When I was exercising outside this morning, I saw a faint blood trail – and someone else had as well.”
“How do you know,” Tamsin said quietly.
“Others had been there as well.”
“I let some of the security teams know last night, so they could make an early start,” Caroline said as she looked round the table. “We are going to find her, and we are going to stop her Agnes.”
“You’d better,” she said with an angry voice, “I truly think now, if I saw her, she would not be walking away.”
“Which is why we HAVE to leave this to Caroline and the others,” Paula said quietly, “while we do the only thing we can do – carry on and keep an extra eye on the younger ones.”
“I’m getting a specialist team here later today,” Caroline said, “and we have eyes everywhere. If we change anything, she’s won Agnes – we cannot allow that.”
“Are you going to tell Donnie?”
“I’m going to see Will and Mandy later this morning – I’ll leave it to them.”
“What about Cat and Shirley?”
“That is in hand,” Kylie said quietly as she stood up. “Please excuse me – I need to make preparations for Rose’s arrival later today.”
9 am BST
"So how did you all sleep?" Sherry asked her children as they came into the café.
"Terribly," Alice grunted as she sat down with her tray.
snoring kept us both awake," Bridget complained, "we aren't going to
have to share a room with him in Scotland are we?"
three bedroom cottage," Sherry smiled, "you girls can share a room
and he can have one to himself."
they said in unison as their brother rolled his eyes.
Aggie we will see you later today," Mike said as he walked in and turned
his phone off.
all okay?" Sherry asked.
seems George made Sue's hen party a night truly to remember." He took a drink from his mug and sighed.
we'd been able to go," Alice shook her head.
"I do too,"
Sherry said as she sipped her coffee, "But your father had to work most of
yesterday so there was no way we could have made it."
according to Aggie, she, Catriona, and the others have plenty of events planned
so that those not going shooting can have plenty of fun."
good," Bridget grinned.
to you," Richard moaned, "but I think I'm going to be more or less
the only boy there."
in a couple of years old son I can assure you that being the only boy with all
those girls will go from being a handicap to a blessing," Tom laughed.
security problems did Agnes say?" Sherry whispered.
"There have been developments," Mike whispered back, "I'll tell you in a bit when the kids can't hear."
“Later,” Mike said as he looked round.
8.30 am BST
warning Elizabeth,” Catriona said as she came into the room, “Daffy just phoned
to say that our gentlemen guests are just a little worse for wear."
the groom?" Lady Elizabeth said with a raised eyebrow as she buttered
herself some toast.
the groom," Catriona laughed aloud, "according to Daffy she has never
seen any man quite that rough looking after his stag night. She was worried
that the airline people at Heathrow might say he wasn't fit to fly."
see. It sounds like a good idea that he
isn't actually getting married today," Elizabeth smiled as she started spreading
right to let two military men organise it all," Cat shook her head.
"Still it sounds a bit better then what they did to Jamie."
putting him in a packing crate and having the RAF ship him to Ulster was going
a bit too far."
really did that?" Lizzie asked open mouthed.
got him back in time for the wedding darling."
they did. They knew your mother would
have killed each and everyone of them if they hadn't
stag night?" John enquired as he, Shirley, and Maisha came into the
Cat's eyes narrowed, "and I do remember just the part you played in all
that John Hammond."
"Be glad I
wasn't there darling," Shirley poured herself a coffee, "forget Cat,
I might have killed you all."
"And their generation has the cheek to make noises about ours Lizzie?" Maisha laughed.
“It is the prerogative of the older to forget they were young once – and then remember with regrets,” John said as he sat down. “They’re on their way then?”
“Very much the worse for wear,” Catriona said as she took her phone out and looked at the message. “Shirley, Penelope and Caroline are coming to see us later – confirm security for tomorrow.”
Shirley looked over and said “is everything all right?”
“Hopefully. I’ll explain later.”
9.30 am BST
trying to keep it from the children,” Mike said as he closed the boot of the
car, “but it seems that a guest arriving late last night might have surprised
Lady Catherine in the act of breaking into the New House..."
Mike," Sherry interrupted with a shocked look on her face.
intruder was frightened off, but everyone who needs to know now knows she's
close by, and they've gone on high alert."
Sherry shook her head.
"So not a
word to the children."
"I understand," Sherry stood and stared at someone filling his car. "By the way is that Nick Gregson over there?"
“It is,” Mike said, “I thought he was working all week in London. What’s going on?”
Gregson glanced over, then turned away as he recognised Mike Babbage. She had called, he had to come – but he hoped other things would happen first…
9.30 am BST
Fiona MacDonald smiled as she saw the private jet slowly descending and landing on the small airstrip, then slowly taxiing to the small outbuilding as she stepped out to greet the occupants.
As the plane came to a stop, the ground crew rolled a set of stairs over, the door opening as King Rudolf of Ruritania stepped out and walked down, followed by Theresa, Klaus and Juliette, before stewards brought two logn cases down and others unloaded the rest of the luggage.
“Welcome to Oban Your Highnesses,” Lady Fiona bobbed a curtsey as her guests descended from the small plane.
“Thank You,” Rudolf smiled, “and can that please be the last time this weekend that you use such formality please.” The king smiled “I’m Rudi, and this is Terri.”
“And we far prefer Klaus and Juliette you know?”
“I do,” Fiona smiled, “I’ve been well briefed by both Agnes and Shirley Xavier.”
“Good,” Rudi looked round, “is your husband not here?”
“Downing Street insisted that he work today, he will fly up tomorrow.”
“Ah, that I understand.” Klaus nodded, “I should imagine he’s up to his neck in things.”
“Yes, but he’s still determined to come meet you all…”
“And get a few days shooting in I’ve no doubt,” the Queen smiled.
“I have all the paperwork for the guns, etc.” Rudi smiled as he patted his briefcase.
“Excellent, and I’m sure my friend here from Customs and Immigration wants to look and check everything,” Fiona gestured to an official looking man.
“I do your Ladyship, but I can wait a couple of minutes till you’ve finished with your greetings.”
“Well, let’s do that while the car is loaded up, and then I’ll drive you to Invermuir.”
A short while later, Fiona closed the door as she settled in the front passenger seat, and the car moved off, joining the A85 and heading along the coast.
“Truly wonderful,” Teri said as she looked over the blue water to the islands, while the car entered Oban itself.
“That’s the Cathedral,” Terri said as they drove past, and then a short distance further before pulling off the road, and up a long driveway. “and here we are.”
As they came to a stop, Fiona and the others got out and looked at the twin turrets.
“This is a beautiful house Fiona,” Juliette said as she stood and took things in.
“Well it might not be quite as grand as Furstenheim or your other homes Juliette, but we love it.”
“So where is Aggie’s place?” Terri asked.
“Ardray is out the other side of Oban, it’s about a 45 minute drive,” Fiona smiled as she supervised the two servants unloading her visitor’s things.
“Oh that’s not too far away.”
“The Fitzstuart’s house at Killcreg is about 10 minutes that way” Fiona pointed.
“Understood,” Juliette nodded.
“So will you be shooting Juliette?”
“No,” the American princess shook her head, “I’m not quite good enough. Now my friend Diana de Ros is excellent, if she was here she’d certainly be out with the guns.”
“I’ll be shooting,” the Queen pointed to a gun case, “those are the guns my father bought me for my 14th birthday…I love the sport.”
“Well, I think coffee is called for – shall we go in?”
11.30 am BST
Catriona and Shirley looked over as the door to the room was opened, and Penny and Caroline were shown in.
“We heard the news,” Catriona said, “how is Agnes?”
“Scared - the kids don’t know everything that happened last night. Have you heard anything?”
“No – but Lily and the team will be in Ardray imminently,” Shirley said. “It’s time for the various teams to meet. I’ve sent word to Leader to meet us in the pub later.”
“Cho will join us there as well,” Catriona said, “she’s been watching the castle after reports of lights there.”
should have phoned last night Dominique," Shirley looked grim.
There was nothing you could have done Madame, and why spoil your night if we
didn't have to."
appreciate your care," Shirley smiled, "so now though bring me right
up to date please."
teams trying to track her," Penelope looked grim, "but we think she
had a car parked. We could follow the blood trail a way, but then it just
serious was her wound?" Catriona asked.
anyone check with the hospital and the doctors to see if anyone came in seeking
"Helen is doing that as we speak Madame." Penny nodded.
“What about Karen?”
“She is being Karen,” Penny said with a shrug, “but she is also casting a spell of protection over the New House.”
“Okay – you’re right Dom, we are doing all we can. Let me know when Lily and the team arrive,” Shirley said as there was a knock on the door.
“Forgive me Miss Catriona,” Mrs Bannerman said as she came in, “but the cars are here.”
“The men of the party?”
“Good question – let’s go and look,” Catriona said as they all walked to the door.
“Ah good,” Elizabeth said as Catriona joined her and Lizzie, “Shall we see how bad they are.”
They watched as the first door opened, and two women got out.
Tom with divorce after seeing the state they'd got Colin in," Serena shook
her head, as she and Daffy greeted their hostesses.
it was an EPIC night," her husband laughed. "Hello Lady Sithwell thank you for allowing us to stay at your lovely
Lady Sithwell?" Daffy laughed, "all three
of them have that title."
one," the big Royal Marine laughed as he kissed Cat on the cheek, "I
did my research."
it be safe for Colin's mother to see him?"
"Wrong question Shirley darling. When will it be safe for Sue to see him is the right one," John laughed as a couple of the men helped Colin out of the back seat of one of the cars.
“Where are we,” he said as he looked round, “and why is it so cold?”
“Bring him in guys,” John said with a laugh, “no photographers here apart from me.”
“Good,” Nick Baines said as he helped Colin in, “last thing we need is me supporting him on a visit…”
“Ladies – let’s retire to the lounge and have coffee there,” Elizabeth said as she shook her head.
“Richmond Park? In the middle of the night Jimmy?”
“Oh yes – and we have the photos.”
"So no one
got arrested? No summonses to answer?" John asked Jimmy as he poured a few
of the men a medicinal restorative.
"Not that I remember," the cavalryman laughed as he sipped his whiskey, "but you might be better off asking my brother that question, he was the designated driver."
“And he is?”
“Over there,” Jimmy said with a grin as Charles raised a glass. His short brown hair was greying, but he still had the build and stature of the infantryman he was.
Colin slowly sat forward, and held his head.
“What happened? Where am I?”
“Getting married in two days,” Tom said with a laugh.
garbled report I got from my husband, they should both be glad that there was
no one from the press to see them last night," Gabriella Baines stretched
very carefully, "if they had neither of them would win this
people would never be able to wrap their heads round the idea that Nick and
Colin are still friends even though they are political rivals Gaby dear."
Lady Elizabeth smiled.
long now Gaby?"
more weeks," she said as she tapped her bump.
little campaigning for you then dear?"
the younger woman shook her head. "It's a disappointment, I've always
enjoyed going door to door canvassing for Nick in council elections."
"You'll have to give Sue some tips how to do it." Catriona walked in.
“On the QT? I might – when do I meet her?”
“Tonight – we’re all invited to the New House for a party.”
11.40 am BST
Lorn and Islands Hospital
Accident and Emergency Department
The receptionist looked up as the dark haired woman came to the desk.
“I’m sorry to have to ask this,” the woman said quietly, “but I’ve been sent to get some details of someone who may have come in with a cut to be treated today.”
“And your business is?”
“I work for Jameson Security – she was one of our local employees,” the woman said as she handed the receptionist a business card, “we wanted to make sure she was all right, as she hasn’t reported in yet.”
“Well, I’ll need to check – do you have a name?”
“James – Catherine James.”
“Let me see… We did have a Catherine James come in in the early hours with a wound to the arm. Is that her?”
“It is,” the woman said with a smile, “I take it she was treated and discharged?”
“Yes – but she said she was on holiday up here, and didn’t leave an address. She did leave a contact number – I can give you that if you want?”
“Thank you,” the woman said as she took the piece of paper, and walked out, returning to her car as she dialled a number.
“Charlotte? Helen – I found where she was treated. Can you get a trace on this number, and inform Penny? I’m heading to the New House now.”
have Heather's tracking software here,” Charlotte said as she typed on her
keyboard, “give it about 10 minutes and if she's still carrying that phone I
can provide to you precise co-ordinates."
hoped that was the case," Helen smiled, "can you also find out who
she's been calling, and who has been calling her?"
a few minutes longer, but yes thanks to Heather's genius I can give you those
details as well."
"So how are
the wedding preparations going?"
"A bit less frenetic and glamorous then yours were, and Oban isn't Naples, but I think it will be just as memorable."
“I can imagine,” Charlotte said with a smile, “see you guys on Saturday.”
“Call when you have something,” Helen said as she hung up, and dialled another number.
Penny she was at the hospital. She gave them a phone number as a contact and
I've got Charlotte working on that."
do I need be this afternoon?"
rehearsal is at three, so make sure you are at the cathedral for that
"Understood. Heading to you now."
1 pm BST
The New House
"Do I need
to come over Aggie?"
darling," Agnes smiled as she spoke into her mobile phone, "I will
see you later at the Cathedral for the rehearsal and tonight, but at this very
minute Donald I think it’s better that both you and I keep out of the way and
let Caroline and the security people do their jobs."
I don't like it, but I suppose that as usual you are right Aggie."
crossed I am."
heard via the grapevine the atrocious state young Colin arrived in at Dunmarnock," Donald laughed.
those same stories," Aggie laughed as well, "neither she, nor Bobby,
are feeling particularly happy with Jimmy and Tom for doing that."
a few cross words at the rehearsal?"
might just be a couple."
changing topics are Laura and Miley enjoying themselves still?"
to be," Agnes looked out the great bay windows down toward the Loch.
"Eve was nosing round and she found that old canoe of ours in one of the
sheds, she's got most of the youngsters with her seeing if it still floats
maybe a couple of people getting wet," Donald giggled.
"Well they have life jackets and Eve seems to know what she's doing, so hopefully nothing too bad will happen. Listen – Tammy and I are going for a walk before the rehearsal. See you there."
1.30 pm BST
"I've never asked darling, I guess I never really thought about it till now,” Agnes said with a sigh, “but what were the plans for the week of my wedding?"
"Do you really want to know Aggie?" Tamsin asked.
"I guess I
Tamsin looked from where they were both sitting in the fort over the Loch
towards Ben Ambar, "Ari and Fiona had booked a night club in Glasgow
for your hen party, they'd invited a huge number of your friends, and they were
dear," Agnes said as she shed a tear.
all looking forward to it so much. Olivia had even persuaded a couple of the
real Chippendales to perform."
"It must have cost you all a fortune..." Agnes's voice trailed off and she started to cry. "And all that was wasted because of me."
“Stop thinking that Aggie,” Tamsin said, it’s past – leave it…”
Agnes looked at her sister as she picked up a cigarette butt from the ground. “Someone was here,” she said quietly, “come on – let’s get to Cat’s place and see how bad the groom is…”
2 pm BST
more human mate?" Tom said as he offered the groom-to-be a cup of coffee.
am," Colin shook his head, “but what the hell happened to them?" he
pointed to laughing, but soaking wet, girls going up the stairs.
an old canoe out on the loch’s edge,” Charlie said, “it wasn't quite watertight
at least they seem to have had fun."
it’s going to be one of those weddings where everyone has a great time."
as he said "Does Sue know what happened last night?"
Daffy and my dearest wife spilt their guts old son."
"So I can
expect a few remarks at the rehearsal then?"
guarantee that," Agnes walked in, "Now is that what you are proposing
"Go up and
change Colin," Agnes shook her head, "she can still say no you know,
and you looking like that..."
"I'll go change."
“The McAdam of McAdam – it’s been a long time.”
“Charlie? You made it then,” Agnes said as he walked over to kiss her – and then looked to the door as Catriona came in.
She looked at him, and then said “Charles – I didn’t know you were coming.”
3 pm BST
St John’s Cathedral, Oban
Sue turned and looked round as the main doors opened, and Colin walked in with Tom Baxter and John Gaunt on either side.
“Oh – you made it then,” she said with a hint of anger as he came forward, then smiled as he said “yeah – and I am sorry for everything you may have heard. I could plead innocence, but I was there.”
“Okay – right,” she said as she looked at him, “promise me it’s not going to happen again between now and Saturday.”
“I think they’d lynch me if it did,” Colin said with a weak smile as Kay, Bobbie and Jane could not stop themselves laughing.
“Hey,” Donald said as he joined Agnes at the front of the church, “sorry I’m late.”
“No problem,” Sue said as she smiled, “I guess we can start now.”
As she talked, the door opened to the cathedral, two dark skinned women walking in and looking round. One of the staff went and talked to them, then nodded as they sat and watched.
“Any word from Char,” Jenny whispered to Helen.
“Last heard of near Ardray – Leader has gone with some of the girls to check,” Helen whispered back as the organist came out, looking through her glasses at the group with her music in her hand, her short grey hair tightly curled.
“All right then,” the Right Reverend Kevin Pearson, the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles said, “if we can have the wedding party at the back of the church, and the groom and attendants here?”
As the girls looked round, and walked to the back of the church, the organist sat at the keyboard, then shook her head as her phone pinged, and she took it out to have a look.
the bishop smiled, "Colin you stand there...Captain Baxter, Lord John, you
stand slightly to the side."
"Just like that gentlemen. All right then, so we have you three here,” the Bishop said as the two onlookers talked quietly to each other, while the bridesmaids stood behind Sue, Penny with Helen, Jane with Kay, and Bobbie at the rear.
“This is like torture,” Sue said quietly, and then looked at Penny as her phone went off.
“Sorry,” she said as she took it out, and then said “Charlotte? What’s up?
“Are you sure?”
Helen looked at her as she said “listen – wait two minutes, and then dial the number.”
“What’s happening,” Helen whispered as Penny put her phone away.
“Hopefully, nothing,” she said as Kylie walked up to them.
“Kyles, a phone may go off in a minute – if it does, and you hear it, move towards it, understand?”
Kylie nodded as she went to the front of the church, the two onlookers standing and moving to the side as they did so.
“Can we have the music please?”
The organist nodded as she started to play, Sue taking Donald’s arm as she started to walk slowly down the aisle, Agnes beaming as she watched them approaching. Helen and Penny walked behind them, looking carefully around as the other three followed behind.
"Donald certainly looks the part of the father of the bride," Tam whispered in Agnes's ear as she also turned in their seats in the front pew and watched Sue and he walk towards them.
"He does doesn't he?"
look even better though as the groom."
"You are reading my mind again Tippy Toes."
The organist looked over at the two women, her smile fixed, her eyes fierce, as she waited.
Simon stood at the front of the church looking on as they came closer, closer…
The phone going off took everyone by surprise, as Kylie and the two onlookers started to move to the front of the church. The organist turned quickly, looking at them before she jumped up and grabbed her handbag, running out of the back door as the two dark skinned women gave chase. Kylie followed them, returning a moment later with the grey wig in her hand.
“What the hell…” Donald looked at Agnes, who was sitting slowly down as Penny took her phone out.
“Lily? Someone just left the cathedral in a hurry – you follow them, Louise and Tracy need to go to make sure the Cathedral Organist is fine. Call when you have info.”
“Does someone want to tell me what is happening,” the bishop said as he looked at Donald and Agnes.
“Nothing,” Donald finally said as he sat with Agnes, “give us a minute, and we’ll start again – without music.”
“Oh crap,” Tamsin whispered, “it couldn’t have been…”
“Yes it could,” Agnes said as she looked at Donald, “we’ll let the security take it from here.
"What do you think so far Mother?" Colin asked as they finished the next walk through.
cathedral is the perfect setting, that Sue is going to make a perfect bride,
and that you darling are an extremely lucky man."
"Your mother is right Son," Sir Charles shook his head, "Sue is going to make you very happy, but - and it’s a big but - she still has every right to be angry about what you and your chums got up to last night."
“I know – but that woman running out spooked me as well as her. Was it…”
“I don’t know – but I’m going to find out,” Sir Charles said as he walked over to Donald and Tamsin.
“Charles,” Donald said, “so far so good?”
“Apart from the organist – was it her Donald?”
Donald merely nodded as Agnes took her mobile phone out.
“Mike? You’ve arrived safely? Good – come to the party tonight. We need to talk…”
As Catherine drove down the road, she cursed the fact she had been uncovered. All she would have needed was five minutes with only them nearby, and it would have been over, her revenge starting. But that call – and who it was and how they had found that number, she had no idea – had alerted her, and then she had recognised the blonde haired girl from the previous night.
The other two were strangers, but she had been foiled again – and this was becoming worse than frustrating. Her tame bodyguard was in the area, and her plants for the shoot tomorrow in place – but she needed to get back to her camp.
Pulling into the side road, she drove slowly along and then veered to the left, stopping and getting out with the car under a low hanging tree. She put on her wellington boots and walked along the path, not noticing the car parking a short way down as three women got out.
Lily looked at the parked car, and then at her two passengers. “Can you take it from here?”
“We can – for the Heart and the Strength. We will inform Leader.” They moved to the track as Lily went back to her car, taking out her phone as it vibrated.
“We found her in her home – unconscious. I’m guessing the same stuff as she used in Lancashire,” the American voice drawled.
“She’s checking for clues, Lilian. Orders?”
“I’ll get a message to the local constabulary. Come back – we’re going to be needed later.”
Ending the call, Lily walked to her car. There was something she had to do in Oban…
Lily suddenly turned round and saw a Chinese woman standing behind her, wearing a waxed jacket, hiking trousers and boots. “I am Cho – I work for Lady C. You work for her esteemed friend?”
“I do – so you are watching on her behalf?”
Cho nodded as she said “Indeed – I found this some time ago, but have not had a chance to report yet. What happened?”
“She came to the wedding rehearsal – we followed her here, and two – specialists are tracking her now.”
“Ah – the two African women. I have seen them, and…”
The gunshot made Cho stop, as they both ran in the direction of the sound, finding one of the Sisters holding a cloth to the arm of the other.
“Did she see you?”
“No – she got lucky. Will you tend to my sister, and inform those who need to be informed to tell Leader I am tracking alone.”
“Are you sure?”
“I am,” she said as she looked at Cho, “she has made a grievous error now.”
7 pm GMT
The New House
"This feels so strange," Miley said as she buttoned up her white blouse, and then stood up, looking at herself in the tall mirror. Her hair was swept back, and as she turned the pleats of her skirt flowed.
"What does," Laura said as she walked in with Eve and Aileen. Like Miley, the older girl was wearing a white blouse and tartan skirt, while Eve and Aileen wore dark green party dresses.
"Dressed like this, I just look... Wrong."
"Well I think you both look amazing," Kit said as she and John looked in. "Come on, we have a party to go to..."
nice Miley," Laura said as she put an arm round the younger girl while
they walked along.
but when we have to go back to London and all this ends..."
go back to our real lives," Laura interrupted.
just a dream?"
"No, but as long as we just enjoy it as the holiday it's supposed to be then I guess we will have something lovely to remember Miley."
“True,” she said as the group descended the stairs, Agnes smiling as she watched them. She was wearing her long skirt and white blouse, a tartan sash over her left shoulder, while Tamsin stood next to her, dressed identically save for the sash.
“You look wonderful,” Agnes said with a smile as she hugged the others, Miley looking at Rory in his full tartan. “Go on in, the other younger ones are in there already – and here comes the woman of the moment.”
Sue smiled as she walked down the stairs, in a short sleeved cream dress, her bridesmaids following behind.
“Well, you all look…”
Agnes," Sue said as she threw her arms round the older woman.
this,” Sue said as she looked round the entrance hall, the candles flickering
at the sides, “for giving me such a dream wedding, for being in many ways the
Mum I never really had."
glasses of whiskey have you had Sue?" Agnes asked with an amused look in
"None," Sue took a deep breath, "it's just that at the rehearsal it struck me just how much I owe to you."
“Well, if you will take the others in, I need to act hostess for a while – starting now I think.
“The Marquis and Marchioness of Ordford, Lord Donald Fitzstuart, Viscount Millingham and Miss Nicola Broadhurst, Lady Angelica Fitzstuart, Lord David and Lord William Fitzstuart.”
“The old place looks wonderful, Agnes darling,” Mandy said as Rory stood to the side, while the maids collected their coats, “and it is so good to see it lively with children laughing again.”
“Isn’t it just – go on in, all of you, I will catch up with you later,” Agnes said as they went in, Pepsi holding John’s arm as she looked round.
There was a small band playing at one side of the great hall, while Sheilagh was supervising a buffet on the side wall, and a well equipped bar next to it. Clodagh was sitting with Aileen, Laura and Miley, while Eve and Kit stood with John.
“Lord Charles and Lady Olivia Treharran, Lord Michael Treharran, Lady Fiona Treharran, Charles and Edwina Treharran.”
“Welcome to Ardray,” Agnes said as she kissed Olivia on the cheeks, “come on through – the girls are gathering over there Edwina.”
“Major Sir John Hammond, Miss Shirley Xavier and Miss Maisha Xavier.”
“Welcome,” Agnes said as she hugged all three of them, “where’s Catriona?”
“Coming behind us with Liz and her mother in law,” Shirley said before she whispered “we need to talk later.”
Agnes nodded as she looked to the door.
“Mr Daniel and Mrs Kelly Rochermann, Miss Eleanor and Miss Allyson Rochermann.”
“Welcome,” Agnes said as the Rochermanns came in, the women wearing long dresses while Daniel wore a three piece suit, “please, feel free to mingle.”
“Thank you,” Kelly said as she and Daniel walked to one side, Mell and Ally joining Fi and Mick.
“Did you hear about the cathedral,” Nelly whispered as they looked round.
“We heard,” Fi said quietly, “I just want five minutes with her…”
“Detective Chief Inspector Michael and Mrs Sherry Babbage.”
“There you are,” Tamsin said as she kissed Sherry on both cheeks, “how are the children?”
“Exhausted from the drive – so they are opting to stay in the cottage tonight,” Sherry said as Mike looked round. “I see everyone I expected to see at this time is here.”
“Who’s missing,” Mike said with a grin.
“Guess – listen, you’ve heard?”
“We have – I have an idea we’re going to start implementing tonight, which with luck will flush her out tomorrow…”
"The Marchesa di Cambrello, and Mr and Mrs Pieter van der Byl." Rory stood to the side as Francesca came in with Charlotte and Piet.
"Thank you for all coming," Sue said as she hugged the three newcomers.
"Well you graced my wedding Sue, accepting your kind invitation was the least we could do in return." Charlotte kissed the bride to be on her cheek.
"And there was no way I was missing out on the shooting," Francesca also kissed Sue.
“Well, mingle, enjoy,” Sue said with a smile. "It seems our choice of a wedding date was rather fortuitous for that."
“Tom,” Michael Treharran said as he joined Tom and Will, “how’s the family holding up?”
“Not too bad – I hear you have a special entertainer coming tomorrow for the children?”
“Almost – we have a local warden coming to show them some of the wild animals round here. That should be fun for them…”
As she turned and saw Donald standing beside her, Agnes smiled and said “how are you Donald?”
“Wishing she was safely locked away again, if truth be told. But this place, to hear it, fell it so happy…”
Agnes smiled as she looked at the girls, while the band leader announced an eightsome reel.
“What’s an eightsome reel,” Miley asked as she and Laura watched severql groups of four coming together.
“It’s great fun,” Aileen said as she and Eve came over, “want to try it?”
“But we don’t know what to do…”
“In which case, allow us to teach you.”
“Good idea,” Aileen said as David, Jack and Will walked over with Mick Harran, Miley staring as he took her hand and walked with the others onto the dance floor, both of them standing at one end as Eve and David stood at the other.
“Watch what they do, and just copy the others,” Mick said with a smile as the bow was drawn across the fiddle, and the dance music started. David took Eve’s hands and skipped down between the two lines as the others clapped, Miley and Laura laughing as they joined in.
“I see Jack is taking a leaf from David’s book, darling,” Mandy whispered to Pepsi as they watched Jack and Laura link arms and dance.
“I suggested it – they look a little scared still, like I did at my first party,” Pepsi said with a smile. “Given they’re Aggie’s special guests as well…”
Mandy nodded as she looked at her brother in law, smiling and clapping as he watched. “If only we could lift this cloud…”
Tamsin smiled as she stood next to Agnes, looking at her eyes as she watched from the other side of the hall.
them darling?" she said as the band stopped, and everyone clapped.
sure my thoughts are worth a penny Tippy Toes," Agnes whispered back.
worrying about Catherine."
a lot of well qualified people here looking out for her, just for tonight try
trying," Agnes smiled. "But I've got more than Catherine to worry about."
she nodded towards Miley and Laura, "what am I going to do with the
bringing out a maternal streak in you aren't they darling?"
"Is that so wrong Tam?"
“No – others have noticed it as well. They look so happy there – but they must be thinking this will end soon.”
Agnes nodded as she said “not yet though – there has to be a way to get them out of their current situation.”
“Maybe there is – if you wanted to?”
Agnes looked at her sister, and whispered “are you seriously suggesting… Just starting to do that puts them in the public eye, and what if the very people they ran from see that?”
“But you care about them, right? You want them to be safe and happy?”
Agnes slowly nodded as Tamsin put her arm round her sister’s shoulders. “Trust me, that is half the battle. Now…”
“My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen!”
They both looked to the door as Rory said loudly “Their Serene Highnesses, Prince Klaus and Princess Juliette von Furstenheim.”
They both curtseyed as Klaus and Juliette walked in, before Rory said “The Dowager Countesses of Sithwell, Countess Sithwell, Sir Charles and Lady Roberta Gresham-Fox.”
Agnes greeted her latest guests, as Rory announced Colin and the other men, and then said “Their Royal Highnesses, King Rudolf and Queen Teresa of Ruritania.”
The whole room bowed and curtseyed as Rudi and Teri came in, before Rudi said “right – that’s it, enough. Let’s all have a drink and relax.”
“Come with me,” Agnes said as they walked to the side table, the barman pouring the dark liquor into two glasses as she handed one over.
“To the future,” she said as they raised their glasses, and took a sip.
only vaguely remember your father Agnes," Rudi said as he savoured his
drink, "but if he was here right now I'd be shaking his hand for putting
this amazing drink aside for others to enjoy."
"Well the more mature amongst us," Agnes laughed at the pained expression on Miley's face as she took a tiny sip of Donald's drink.
“Well, the finer things need time to mature – who is she anyway?”
“Miley? One of the girls from my school – I invited her and her older friend Laura to join me here for the wedding, and a holiday.”
you said there would be several posh people here," Lacey whispered into
Jane’s ear, "but you never said there would be royals."
Daffy isn't truly royal..."
"I meant the King and Queen, and the Prince and Princess."
“Oh them – I talked to Agnes, and Shirley, and they are so fed up with been given their titles they always insist on the once only rule. I mean, Princess Juliette is Juliette Huntingdown, the model.”
“So you’re not fazed?”
“Oh I’m fazed, but this is Sue’s wedding – and if she can accept them, so can I. Besides, you’re forgetting the Marchesa.”
“Oh,” Miley said as she looked at the young teenager walking over, “what can I do for you?”
brought you a drink," Richard Babbage said as he passed Miley a coke.
nothing in this is there?" she looked suspiciously.
he laughed, "I don't like what the grownups are drinking either."
Miley smiled, "that whiskey was horrible."
agrees, that's why he only really drinks beer."
"You know,” Miley said as she took another sip, “I was scared of your dad the first time I met him, but for a policeman he's really quite nice."
“Dad? Scary?” Richard laughed as he said “he’s all right – but I know what you mean about other cops. Listen – would you like to dance later?”
Miley looked at him, before she smiled and nodded as Laura looked on.
"Is it me,”
Elizabeth said as she looked around the room, “or is Agnes behaving like a
mother towards those two young girls Catriona?" She looked at Agnes, who was watching both
Laura and Miley.
Elizabeth," Cat smiled at her mother-in-law, "Aggie's turning
the girls from her little school."
"So they are both runaways?"
“They are – but she says they are almost her own special project as well. She protects them, and they love her for it… Francesca – join us please.”
“Hello Catriona,” Francesca said as she walked over.
“Allow me to introduce my mother, the Dowager Countess Sithwell. Elizabeth, may I introduce Francesca, Marchesa di Cambrello.”
“Ah – the mother of the young redhead over there. A pleasure to meet you,” Elizabeth said as they kissed each other on the cheek.”
“The pleasure is mine,” Francesca said, “and it is good to be back in my late husband’s home land.”
“So where in
Scotland was your late husband from Marchesa?"
born in Aberdeenshire Lady Elizabeth, his parents moved to South Africa when he
was 6 years old. And please call me Francesca."
Elizabeth." the older woman smiled, "so what did he think of himself
as Scottish? or South African?"
both, but I think more South African."
daughter looks like a true Scot with that lovely red hair."
"Yes she does," Francesca smiled as she watched Charlotte dancing. “And James loved this country, but he loved South Africa more…”
She could hear the music, the laughter, and see the bright lights, and it made her incandescent with rage. He was in there with the whores – all the whores – and all the children of whores, and it was an abomination in her sight.
An abomination that had to be cleansed from the earth – she realised that now, especially after she had been in the cathedral. That dark bitch had almost stopped her, but she had shot her way out. She had intended to wait until Saturday, but she knew she had to strike now.
Her mind was clear, her purpose certain, as she looked through her binoculars at the windows, and saw HER in the bay window. Smiling, she slipped out and crossed the lawn, weighing the bottle in her hand. It was filled with petrol, a cloth stuffed into the open neck, and yes it was crude, but it would hurt her, and all the others…
Catherine smiled in the moonlight as she walked over, reaching into her pocket and taking out a lighter, flicking it open, looking at the flame…
She didn’t hear the soft footfall, but she felt the impact as she was pulled back, the lighter and bottle falling on opposite sides as she rolled over. She could not see clearly, even in the clear moonlit night who it was, but as she stood up she was angrier still.
“I won’t be stopped again,” she growled as she looked at the shape.
“I cannot allow you to hurt a sister, or any other sisters there,” the shape said in an African accent, “Submit and return.”
“Go to hell,” Catherine screamed as she ran forward – and then stopped, dropping to her knees as she looked to her side and saw the dart in her arm. Looking over, she saw the shape move, and then felt the boot in her chin as her head was snapped back, and she fell unconscious to the ground.
Lily walked over, and said quietly “we have her. Take her to your camp – we will talk tomorrow.”
didn't your sisters come to the party?" Miley asked as she looked round
reckoned they were too tired," Robert grinned, "we had to share a
room last night and they said I snored and kept them awake."
"How do I
know...I'm asleep," Robert laughed. "At least it means where we are
staying I get a room to myself."
one good thing I suppose," Miley giggled.
got a room here to yourself?"
sharing with Laura, like I do at home."
Robert paused like he wasn't sure quite what to say next. "Dad
Laura and I are both runaways from home? That she has to let men do nasty
things to her to pay for our little room? That we..."
me all that," Robert blushed as he interrupted, "I didn't mean to say
thinking things though?" Miley got very defensive, "me and Laura
might not be posh, and we might have to do bad things, but it's better..."
having people in your families do bad things to you," Robert interrupted
again. "Mum and Dad explained to me what had probably happened to make you
run away. It made me think I'm very lucky to have them as my parents."
nice families," Miley got a faraway look on her face, "I guess I
McAdam is looking out for you now."
the time, but when we go home to London we will still have to go back..."
again Miley's voice trailed off.
don't think about it," Robert said quietly as he tentatively tried to give
Miley a comforting hug, "right now you are here, and everything is
nice...Please have fun Miley."
"I'm trying," Miley smiled wondering why it felt nice to have a boy hug her.
“Look Mike,” Sherry said as she pinched her husband’s arm, “I think Robert has made a new friend.”
Mike Babbage smiled as he said “so I see. Good for him – and for Miley as well. She needs more friends to talk to – outside of her world that is.”
“There must be something you can do, Mike?”
“I already did, making sure they go there without alerting anyone. That’s the problem – do something too overt, and the bad things rear their heads again.”
says that you are a very bright and clever girl Laura, what subjects are your
favourites?" Francesca said as she sat talking to the youngster.
"Well I like
reading about history, and I like looking at the atlas at the maps and then
looking places up and learning about them."
when Aggie went to Naples I looked that up Miss, and I found out what i could about where she was staying, and about your
did you learn?" Francesca smiled, impressed that this girl called her Miss
rather than Marchesa.
ancestors were very important, that they fought a lot of battles and wars, but
that they also encouraged and helped a lot of important artists and
did all that Laura, maybe one day you'll come to Naples and I can show you some
of the things and places you probably read about."
never be able go anywhere like Naples Miss."
"Never say never dear, none of us quite know what fate has in store for us in life."
“What do you mean?”
“Sometimes, life can surprise us.”
Francesca turned and smiled as she said “Karen – this is Laura, a friend of Agnes. Laura, meet Karen Kumalo.”
“A pleasure,” Karen said as she shook Laura’s hand, looking into her eyes as she did so.
“What? What is it?”
“Nothing – save that it is a real pleasure to meet you, Laura. I hope we get to talk again over the next few days.”
Friday 12th August
5 am BST
Catherine groaned as she slowly opened her eyes, the sound of the dawn chorus ringing in her ears. The air was cool, but her arms and legs were stiff, and as she tried to move she found she could not.
As she manged to focus, she saw she was in a tent – and she was secured to a chair with ropes at her wrists, ankles, legs and upper body. She could also see two dark skinned women, watching her from either side of the tent entrance.
Feeling with her fingers, she knew she could not get her wrists free without help – and that was obviously not forthcoming from these two. It was then the door to the tent opened, and three women came in. One was also dark skinned, tall, proud, wearing camouflage gear and army boots. The second was Oriental, wearing a green gillet over a dark jumper, green pants and short boots.
The third was a brown haired woman she recognised.
“Well, well, so who has me,” she said as she looked at Lily.
“Not important for now,” Lily said quietly, “we represent three groups, who had one common aim. Protect Agnes McAdam and find you – and we appear to have managed both so far.”
“So this is Lady Fitzstuart,” the African woman said in an English accent, “I see she has been treated for her wound. Be assured, the sister you wounded yesterday has bene just as well treated, and is most anxious to meet you again.”
“Patience, Leader,” Lily said with a smile, “there are others who wish to talk with her. Is that not right, Cho?”
“Indeed – my Lady is most anxious to speak with her as well,” the third woman said. “But they are otherwise occupied this morning, and will come later.”
Catherine looked at all three, and then smiled. “Well, you have me,” she said quietly, “but who says the bitch is safe – or anyone associated with her?”
“We have you,” Leader said, and then she stopped and looked at Catherine. “You have proved most elusive and cunning – is it possible…”
Lily and Cho looked at Leader, before Lily said “you have agents – and you have been in contact with them. There’s a failsafe, a back up?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“I would, and believe me I would take great pleasure in finding out,” Leader said quietly, “but for now, we need to take steps. Keep her under constant guard.”
“For the Heart and the Strength,” the two guards said as they walked out. “Lily, take Cho and contact the Strength, she needs to be aware. I will send word to the contacts at the New House.”
“Where are you going?”
“To warn Lord Fitzstuart…”
7.30 am BST
The New House
Rory smiled as he watched his wife and the two kitchen girls working on the stoves, one stirring a large porridge pot as the others fried sausages and bacon.
“Take these up to the breakfast room,” Sheilagh said as she handed a third girl a tureen filled with scrambled egg, and went back to the stove.
cooked enough breakfasts for everyone Sheilagh?"
he said as he checked his shotgun.
"Aye I have Rory," the factor's wife smiled, "We are rushed off our feet, but yes we will send everyone out with a full stomach."
“Good – right, I’ll be away to meet the beaters. I’ll see them all later…”
In the breakfast room, Agnes smiled at the younger girls as they sat round the table, Ama and Eve acting as the mother hens, as the adults discussed the day ahead.
sense it?" Agnes whispered in her sister's ear, "that buzz in the air
that you get when a much anticipated event is going to take place."
can," Tam smiled.
"I can feel it too...just a pity it’s not my wedding tomorrow that has everyone acting like this," Sue laughed.
“That’s tomorrow morning,” Agnes said, “today is something different…”
“At least we have a glorious morning for it,” Rudi said as he and Teresa came into the breakfast room. “But first – the hearty breakfast…”
8 am BST
She had not answered his call – something had happened, and he was unsure as to whether or not this was a good or a bad thing. His fear was total, however, and as he walked to Donald’s room he knew, much against his better judgement, what it was he would have to do.
In his hand was the box – the one she insisted her bring up, the one that was certain doom, but he truly had no choice. Knocking on the door, he stopped before he said “Lord Fitzstuart?”
“Come in,” he heard Donald call out, and as he went in he saw Donald putting on his shooting jacket.
“Perkins – is there a security problem?”
“No your Lordship – I wanted to see if you were ready to head to the car?”
“Let me just take care of one thing,” Donald said as he slipped to the bathroom, and he took from the case the hypodermic syringe. It would look like a heart attack, no blame would come his way…
He walked slowly to the door as he heard Donald say “just get them to put my guns in the car please.” The syringe was in his hand, it would be so simple…
“Do not do this.”
He turned suddenly and looked at the young African woman who had entered the room, Mandy standing behind her.
“Do not do this,” she said quietly, “I know you think she has a hold over you that is unbreakable. But I am here to tell you that hold can and will be broken. Do not do something that will condemn you to misery for your whole life.”
“What’s going on,” Donald said as he came out, and looked at the policeman.
“I… I will not be the only one…”
“We know, and we are taking steps,” Leader said quietly. “Put it down, and come with Lady Ordford here – she will take you to your colleagues, you can tell all with a clear conscience.”
He looked at both women, and then whispered “thank the lord” as he put the syringe on the bed. Leader carefully walked forward and picked it up as he left with Mandy, Donald looking at her and saying “I know you – you work for Charlotte Gordon’s charity.”
“I do – go about today Lord Fitzstuart with a glad heart.”
“Catherine – he was in her thrall?”
“Indeed – leave her for us to deal with. Your job is elsewhere – and to be the proud father tomorrow…”
9 am BST
The New House
know something is up." Ama smiled as Caroline
checked her shotguns, looking at the beagles and gun dogs.
Caroline said as she checked the ammunition, and handed the satchel to her
daughter, “it isn't just the humans getting excited." Both were wearing shooting jackets over
jumpers, plus fours and boots, the socks pulled up.
Morning to you Terri," the model smiled as the queen kissed her on the
beautiful pair of Fausti's yours?" Terri said as
she admired Caroline's shotguns.
indeed," Caroline smiled, "I bought them a few years ago now. It’s the first time I have used them for a
shoot like this though."
very nice indeed," Rudi joined the conversation. "My wife has a
lovely pair of Browning D5's."
has an even lovelier pair of vintage Purdey's."
some magnificent weapons here Your Majesty," Rory walked over. "I'm not sure that there has been such a
wonderful selection since the days my grandfather was factor here."
Rory," the King smiled.
"Are you nearly ready?" Tom Lardarn asked as he carried two broken open Webley guns over his arm.
“Right children – line up with me please.”
Agnes came out of the door as Laura, Miley and the other younger children came out, wearing coats and wellingtons while Mr McLeod looked on.
“If ye come with me, we’ll see what the forest has to offer today,” he said as they set off, Helen and Kylie nodding to the others as they took up the rear.
“Awl reet, my lords, ladies and gentlemen,” Rory called out, “Get in the jeeps and come with me please, the rest of the party will meet us there.”
“Here they come,” Cat said as she and Shirley saw the approaching jeeps, smiling as they stopped and Donald got out with Will and Charlie.
“A wonderful day,” Donald said as the jeeps from the New House came out, Rory walking to a group of men as the others gathered round. As they walked to the far side of the moor, Rory took a bottle of amber liquid out and poured into some small metal thimbles.
“Gentlemen, Ladies,” he said as they each took one, and he raised his one, “the Glorious Twelfth.”
“The Glorious Twelfth,” they replied as they drank, and then stood in a line as the group of men spread out at the far side of the moor.
"So what is it like where you live Clodagh?" Miley asked as they walked along the trail in the forest.
"Not a lot like this," the Irish girl smiled, "our land is mainly small farms, with lots of fields and hedgerows, not a huge forest like this."
Miss Laura," the farmer pointed, "can you see the woodpecker?"
can," Miley whispered.
keep quiet we can probably hear it pecking at the tree."
For a couple of minutes the youngsters just stood and listened in silence before the loud tapping noise echoed round the trees.
"Wow I've never heard that till now," Robert shook his head.
have," Clodagh smiled. "We have an old oak tree behind the stables
that you often can hear the woodpecker in."
are a country girl, Lady Clodagh," Jimmy McLeod smiled.
part of the time in Dublin as well, but yes I love the countryside."
so lucky," Miley shook her head.
the best of both," Laura grinned as they started to walk on.
are they doing?" the watcher said as she listened to her phone.
doing fine," the woman whispered.
up?" the voice asked in an urgent tone.
just coming up on this clearing, and there is a wonderful stag grazing."
be down wind if it’s not aware you are there," the remote voice relaxed.
don't know about the youngsters, but I'm enjoying seeing all this if they
quiet and squat down," Jimmy McLeod gestured to the children as they saw
the beast, "he doesn't know we are here, and if we can keep quiet we can
"Wow!" Laura mouthed the word. The stage raised its head and looked round, then continued to graze as they watched in rapture…
Sheilagh - Any news on the children?" Agnes
asked Karen as they sat in the morning room drinking coffee.
"Last I heard,” Karen said with a smile, “they were watching a stag grazing."
"Oh?" Aggie smiled, "you know it has been years since I've seen one myself."
have quite the wild life here in Britain that we do in Africa," Karen
smiled, "but I think even I might be excited seeing such a wonderful beast
in such a setting."
that Jimmy gets the girls to take some photos so they can show the other kids
at the school."
For a couple of
minutes the two women sat in thought.
Agnes finally said, “what do your powers of insight tell you about me
The Umlimo looked over, and said as she put her cup down "Do
you really want to know Agnes?"
Aggie took a sip.
things are going to work out as you want them, though there are perhaps still a
few bumps in the road ahead."
"That I know you are thinking hard, not on the relationship between you and Lord Donald, but another question.”
“And that question is?”
Karen smiled as
she said “is there some way you can adopt Miley and Laura."
having them here means the world to both you and Lord Donald? then yes that's
obvious. It's also pretty obvious those two girls idolise you."
“I do – remember I said you would find happiness. There are many ways this can and will happen. You need only be patient a short while longer…”
you were supposed to be loading for your father this morning?" Nell asked
as she and Mick walked hand in hand along the side of the loch.
the toss of the coin,” Mick said with a smile, “she'll load this morning, and
I'll go with him this afternoon."
glad she lost," the American smiled, "I get both you and this
wonderful scenery all to myself."
magnificent isn't it?" Mick said as they watched the calm waters.
Nell stopped and looked out over the water to the heather clad mountain beyond,
"we don't have anything quite like this in the States."
have a lot of magnificent scenery though."
"What am I
going to do when you have to return to Harvard?" Mick whispered as he held
both of her hands and looked her deep in the eyes.
survive Mick darling," Nell smiled at him, "you and the guys are
going to be in the studio recording the new album remember."
but that means while you are in Boston, I'll be stuck in LA."
you," Nell laughed, "all those California girls to tempt you."
assure you that I'll not be at all tempted darling."
better not be Michael Treharran," Nell leaned
forward till her lips touched his. "You are mine, and mine only."
"I know," the Englishman grinned as he slipped an arm round her waist as they started to walk again. “I know that, which is why I’m glad we’ve got this time alone.”
“Oh – what are you thinking about, Michael Treharran?”
Nell stopped and looked at Mick, as she said “Mick? What are you thinking about?”
“Like I said, commitment,” he said quietly as he got onto one knee, and took a small box from his pocket. “Eleanor Rochermann – will you marry me?”
“If we are all ready,” Rudi said as Ama loaded two cartridges into the gun and handed it to Caroline, the tall blonde smiling as Tamsin nodded to Rory. He raised his hand and dropped it, as on the far side of the moor the line of men started to walk forward, making noise as they beat the low lying heather with their sticks.
“Here they come,” John Gaunt whispered as they slowly walked forward, and then the birds started to fly out of the gorse, the armed guests taking aim and firing.
“Well done Mom,” Ama said as one bird fell down, John sending the dogs off as he brought a bird down as well.
“Good shooting,” Lily said quietly as she watched from a ridge, Tracy nodding as she watched through her field glasses.
“It is – these guys really know how to shoot. I mean, Dom I expect to be, but the others are just as good…”
“Hold on – on the other hill,” Tracy said quietly, Lily looking through her glasses as she saw the glint on the hill.
“Cho? Hill to your right – check it out please.”
“Understood,” Tracy heard Lady C’s assistant say from the radio.
Rory stood to the rear, watching the beaters as they slowly walked forward. They all seemed to know their job, calling out, using the sticks, looking down as one of them reached into his pocket…
Walking quickly over, he grabbed the young man by the collar and hauled him up, grabbing his wrist as he looked at the flare. “Drop it sonny,” he growled, as he looked into his eyes, “the Lady is not in charge here – I am.”
Ally," Agnes said as she kissed the young American, "all on your
has taken Nell for a walk along the lakeshore."
offer you coffee?"
Ally said as she collapsed in an armchair and looked at her watch.
say yes?" Karen asked.
say what?" Ally looked stunned as Agnes gave her a cup.
Karen smiled as
she said "Will your sister say yes to his proposal?"
hell do you know about that,” Ally said, her eyes wide, “I thought I was the
only person he'd told what he was going to do?"
how Karen knows these things," Agnes smiled as she sat down again,
"just accept that somehow she does."
you think she will say yes?"
sure," Ally shook her head. "I guess we will find out at
what?" Charlotte asked as she wandered in.
sister will accept Mick's marriage proposal."
that," Charlotte smiled, "with what's in the air this summer I'm
amazed it's taken him this long."
sort of my thought as well." Aggie smiled again. "Help yourself to
"He's acting as loader for my Mother Karen," Charlotte said as she poured a cup, and sat down.
"Makes sense," Aggie laughed, "there was no way that I was being tempted out to either load, or shoot."
“We join them for lunch?”
“We join them for lunch,” Agnes said as Penny walked by with Lily.
“They have her?”
“Indeed,” Lily whispered, “but we are the only ones outside Cho and the Leader’s team who knows. We stopped one attempt earlier, and we are checking something out now. Nothing must be left to chance.”
“Hence the Fort?”
“Indeed,” Lily said, “while the younger generation are out. Helen and Kylie have them, and others are watching…”
As they went outside, Agnes left the breakfast room, and walked to the kitchen.
the lunch preparations going Sheilagh?"
gradually getting the hampers packed Miss Agnes," Sheilagh
said as she looked round.
apologise for there being so many people to cater for."
apologise Miss, I'm just happy after all these years to finally be doing it,
and I remember how my Gran catered for the shooting parties, and I'm trying to
do just what she did."
help?" a voice asked.
really Clarissa," Agnes said with a smile as she kissed the newcomer.
"How are you doing?"
that I got a sleep in,” the barrister said as she looked round, “Peter and I
only arrived at Dunmarnock late last night."
honestly think my husband came all this way to miss a moment’s shooting?"
the barrister smiled.
know better than to ask shouldn't I?" Agnes giggled.
"Listen… Has Catriona had a word with you Aggie?"
asking for my conviction to be overturned? Yes she has."
The two turned
from Sheilagh as Clarissa whispered "and what is
your opinion darling?"
while it would be nice, do I really want the whole thing raked over
"It might help with a lot of your travel difficulties you know?"
“I know – but am I ready for this?”
“At least think about it,” Clarissa said quietly, “when do we head to the shoot?”
“In an hour or so…”
1 pm BST
Rory smiled as he saw the line of jeeps approaching, and held his hand up as the shooting stopped. “We’re going to break for lunch,” he called out as one jeep went to the beaters, and the others formed a line, Sheilagh and Aggie getting out of the first one as the shooters made their guns safe.
“There you are,” Kelly said as she saw Nell and Mick get out of another jeep, “how was the walk?”
“Interesting,” Nell said as she looked round, “Mom, can I have a word with you please?”
“Mister Rochermann, may I have a word,” Mick said as they walked in the opposite direction, as Mr McLeod led the line of children to the area where picnic baskets and blankets were been laid out.
“Of course,” Daniel said as Kelly looked over, and then at her daughter. “Nell – what happened?”
“Well,” Nell said as she looked round, and then said quietly, “Mom, Mick asked me to marry him.”
It was one of the rare occasions where Nell saw her mother speechless, as she looked at her daughter.
did you reply?" Kelly eventually asked.
"That I love him, that I have three more years at Harvard, that has he truly thought it out..."
Nell glanced over at where her father was putting his hand on Mick’s shoulder, and shaking his hand, before she said “he agreed, he was prepared to wait, and – well…” She took off her glove as Kelly looked at the ring on her left hand.
“She said yes?”
Mick nodded as he stood with his plate of food, looking at the rest of his family.
“So I get to be a bridesmaid,” Edwina grinned as she looked up from the blanket.
“Eventually,” Mick said with a smile.
son," Charles Treharran smiled as he sat on the
shooting stick and ate. "She's a lovely girl and I'm pretty damn sure she will
make you happy."
"Well we haven't set a date yet Dad," Mick smiled back at his father, "and we might have to wait until Nell finishes at Harvard, but I wanted her – and everyone - to know that I love her and that I'm ready to make a commitment."
"We will all need to sit down and talk this out," Olivia nibbled at her chicken, "but Kelly and I already talked a little, and they would rather Nell waits till she graduates."
“You could see this coming?”
Olivia arched her eyebrow as she said “of course we did – you surprised us with the timing, but I am sure we will work it out…”
“She said yes?”
Fiona nodded as she looked at Ally, Angel shaking her head as she said “so the first of us falls.”
hell she sees in my brother I'll never know," Fiona grinned as she shook
her head, "but if she wants this then I'm happy for her. He doesn't
deserve her though."
her happy I guess," Angel said as she nibbled a sandwich.
"Well having my sister formally tied up just leaves more men for me." Ally laughed.
“But it means the end of the New York Sluts?”
“Well. Maybe a transition – we’ll have to wait and see…”
going to be the only engaged couple," Pepsi says as she sat on the end of
the Range Rover with Jack.
"Her ring is lovely, but I prefer mine," the American said as she looked down at her hand.
“I think they’ll be very happy together – even if they are apart most of the time.”
“Just like us…”
will have something to celebrate tonight beyond the opening of the
season," Will said as he put his arm round Mandy.
darling - It's a pity everybody can't come to our place."
a wedding tomorrow remember..."
darling," Mandy smiled, "each house party will eat the grouse, and
then start preparations."
Donald will stay tonight at Ardray?"
remember," Amanda smiled, "I think he rather relishes being father of
the bride so to speak."
he can see in his mind giving away his own daughters..."
darling?" Mandy interrupted.
"Yes," Will smiled and nodded towards where his brother, Agnes, Laura, and Miley, were sitting on a blanket.
“It was amazing – we saw a stag and big birds and so much else,” Miley said between drinks from her cup.
“Well, you can tell them all about it at the school,” Agnes said with a smile as Helen and Kylie looked on.
“I am so glad there was no trouble,” Kylie drawled.
“Indeed – but remain alert. The cobra may still strike…”
looking like the most romantic of years," Caroline said as she stood with Ama, Francesca, and Piet, looking at the newly betrothed
is," Francesca smiled. "So is there a special man waiting to propose
to you Caroline?"
know mom, Dan might do it one day,' Ama laughed.
who is this Dan?" Francesca asked with a broad smile on her lips.
"He's Dan Amatrescu, and he's on the Secretary-General’s secretariat
at the UN."
"Oh he is is he Ama?"
the younger girl laughed again, "he and my Mom are quite an item."
to remember that name," Francesca giggled.
we need find you a man Francesca?" Caroline tried to change topics.
"Have you been talking to my wife?" Piet enquired as he finished loading his satchel with ammunition for his afternoon loading for his mother-in-law.
the Contessa's guns look different Mom?"
they are over and under rather then
side-by-side," Caroline looked, "They are made by a gunmakers called Manelli, which by pure coincidence I'm sure, Francesca
happens to be the owner of."
"Oh I'm sure its pure coincidence," Ama laughed.
“So how are you doing,” Bobbi asked as she looked at her husband.
“Not too bad – I think Catriona’s cook will have plenty to work with,” Charles said with a smile. “But we have a few hours ahead of us still…”
“So – young Mike and Nell?”
“Indeed – I wonder how the news will go down in New York…”
West Central Park
“Come on Katy,” Jan Carter called out as she put the telephone down, “I’ve got some news for you!”
"All right, all right,” her daughter Katy said as she walked slowly into the room, still in her night clothes, and sat down as her grandmother looked in. She tried rubbing the sleep out of her eyes as she said “so, what is so important you had to wake me up Mom? You do remember how late my shoot ended last night?"
"I do darling, but I thought you'd want to know this," Janice grinned, "Mick proposed to Nell and she accepted."
"Oh that's nice," Katy lay back and closed her eyes... Jan counted to five in her head as she waited.
"He what?" Katy suddenly sat up straight, now fully awake.
"Mick Harran proposed to Nell Rochermann."
"OH MY GOD
MOM!" Katy giggled, "That is going to make Nell so unpopular round
think of all those fans with dreams of marrying Mick," Katy giggled again.
"Oh I see what you are getting at darling," Janice laughed, "yes I guess it will break a few teenage girls’ hearts."
“I guess the Sinner network is working the phones now?”
“I would imagine so…”
St Mary’s Refrectory
“Vanessa Richmond,” the housekeeper said as Alex looked up to see Nessa come in, wearing a short slip dress and a dark jacket.
“Well, you look happy this morning – some coffee?”
you… Did you see the news brother
indeed," Father Alex smiled, "it looks like your singing partner will
one day be settling down to marriage."
well suited," Nessa smiled back as she accepted the cup, "when we
were in the recording studio I overheard them chatting a couple of times, and
it was obvious from what he was saying how much he loves her."
Alex said as he glanced at his phone.
Alex smiled again, "she's saying that the announcement has managed to even
halt most of the conversation about the morning's shooting."
Harker is saying the same," Vanessa looked at her own device.
delivered our wedding present?"
"She has Alex." Nessa paused, "I suppose that we now have to think about an engagement present don't we?"
“Indeed – once we have the formal announcement. Which reminds me – our present for young Rudi and Mags?”
“Is on the way to Germany now…”
"Well bang goes one fantasy of mine," Sarah looked at the text from Grace while Harriet dished up breakfast. "I was sort of hoping that if Nell and he ever broke up I might get a crack at Mick."
"You are too old for him," Harriet laughed.
girl can dream can't she?"
guess." Harriet poured them both coffee. "So what plans for
with the girls working on their basic fitness." Sarah took a sip, "I
think my girls here maybe are a bit more skilled then my old team, but Downwood
are certainly stronger and fitter - we need at least try and match that."
"Understood," Harriet nodded, "well while you do that I'm dropping into the school to help Wilhelmina draft the reasons that we need a new science block."
“While you’re there, can you deliver these,” Sarah said as she stood up and collected a folder from the side, “my lesson plans for the next semester.”
“Not a problem – I have Grace’s to take as well anyway.”
The Richmond Mansion
on!" Heather moaned as she looked to the door, "we are still on
vacation, can't I get one day’s sleep in?"
out on some great news?"
great news," Heather said as she opened one eye.
Nell got engaged in Scotland"
ALL?" Sandy shouted.
predicting that at Juliette's last week," Heather said as she opened both
eyes and smiled.
seemed pretty logical."
hear the news?" Young Sandy and George said as they came in without
just telling Heather."
ring Holly," Young Sandy reached for her mobile.
"Will they both be coming to the christening in Germany?" George asked.
“Who are you talking about,” Jo said as she looked in from the hallway, wiping her face with a towel.
“Nell and Mick are engaged, sis,” Heather said as she sat up.
“Oh – right,” Jo said as she walked off, and then walked back, her eyes wide as she said “Mick popped the question?”
“He did indeed – best spread the news…”
John Hammond’s Studio
was so important you rang me up at home and dragged me over here at this
ungodly hour?" Mary Thomas asked as she entered the studio. She truly did not like mornings, but Diana
had been most insistent.
one thing, Michael Treharran has proposed to Eleanor Rochermann," Diana smiled broadly.
couldn't tell me that on the phone?" Mary said as she hung her coat up.
have,” Diana said quietly, “but my darling daughter wants you hear to read the
riot act to the Maestro if he starts to misbehave Cherie."
"Ah that I
understand," Mary said as she sat down, "Any chance of some coffee?"
she yelled at the assistants.
up," a young man shouted back.
"So did Momma tell you Mary?" Abby said as she wandered in, fully made up, with a robe on, and her hair in curlers. "Ally said he did it while they were walking along this beautiful lakeside."
“Ai that would have been a sight – so, what is the Maestro threatening now…”
The Ashley apartment
“Hey Poppy,” Erica said as she came in with her mother. “Where’s your mom?”
“In conference for a minute with Anna – some news came through you might want to hear about.”
“Oh – what,” Denice said.
“The engagement of Lord Michael Treharran and Miss Eleanor Rochermann,” Pippa said as she came out.
“Mick Harran engaged? Half of our peers will be weeping,” Erica said with a grin.
“More fool them…”
2 pm BST
The Sisters Camp
Catherine stared at the two guards as she thought of what she wanted to do to them. They stared back, unmoving, impassive, unseeing in her eyes as she slowly freed her wrists. All she needed was a little patience.
“I need to take a break – you all right, sister?”
“I am sister,” the second guard said as her partner slipped out, Catherine smiling as she said “I’m not going anywhere, you can go as well?”
The guard simply looked at her, as she said “oh well – I want you to remember, I gave you the opportunity to step outside.” As she said this, she shook her wrists free from the rope and smiled, a dangerous, evil smile as she pushed herself off the seat and grabbed the guard round her throat with her hands. The young woman barely had a chance to respond as the life was slowly choked out of her, Catherine grinning as she did so.
“She has been no trouble,” Leader asked as she walked back with the first guard.
“No – she has been…” The two women fell silent as they saw their comrade on the floor, the tent empty.
“Gather the sisters,” Leader said quietly, “I want her found so that she can pay for this.”
8 am PT
the phone call from Susie?" Mary asked as she prepared her father's lunch
New York," the younger woman poured herself a mug of coffee. "The
news is spreading that Mick Harran has proposed to Nell."
accept?" David asked as he came in carrying a small bag of shopping and
did," Susie reached in the bag and put the fresh milk in the fridge.
lucky guy," David grinned as he started to help put the groceries
remember you being very impressed with her at Trina's ball kiddo," Dave
came in wearing his work overalls and sat down.
"Well for all her reputation," Mary cast glances at her three sisters, "underneath the New York Slut, Nell is a lovely person."
4 pm BST
The New House, Ardray
“That was an amazing trip,” Miley said as she and Laura walked into the hallway, Aileen and Edwina following them in. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“I know,” Laura said quietly, “look, I need to go a place. Will you be all right for a few minutes, kiddo?”
“Sure – nothing bad is going to happen to me here,” Miley said as Laura went upstairs.
“Hey – want to go out to the Fort and talk?”
“Sure – coming?”
“Edwina and me need to get something to show you first,” Aileen said as they ran up the stairs, while Miley went through the kitchen, Sheilagh smiling at her as she left by the back door, and walked up the stairs of the wooden treehouse.
As she entered, however, her eyes opened wide as she was grabbed, a hand covering her mouth as a female voice whispered “well now – you’ll do nicely…”
“Miley? You up here?”
As Aileen came into the tree house, she looked round, Edwina following her as she picked up a letter from the ground and looked at it.
“Good day, Rory?”
“Wonderful day,” Sheilagh’s husband said as he placed several brace of grouse on the table, while Aileen and Edwina came back in. “Hello girls – did you enjoy the walk.”
“Girls?” Sheilagh looked at their worried faces as Aileen handed Rory the letter. He looked at it, and said “don’t worry girls – I’ll deal with this. Gie them both a drink Sheilagh – I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Agnes, have you seen Miley,” Laura said as she walked in, Karen and Caroline looking on.
“I presume she’s around here somewhere,” Agnes said as Rory came out. “Begging your pardon, Miss Agnes, but ye need tae see this,” Rory said as he handed Agnes the letter.
“Itzy? What’s happened,” Caroline said as Penny and Helen came over.
“Agnes? Are you all right,” Sue said as she joined the party, Agnes saying nothing as she handed Caroline the note. Caroline glanced at it as Karen took Agnes’ arm, and said “come – let them talk first.”
“Laura, Mister Babbage is coming with the rest of the hunting party to collect his son,” Caroline said quietly, “when he comes in, ask him to come to the breakfast room please. Sue, Penny, Helen, we need to talk to Itzy.”
As they walked into the breakfast room, Itzy closed the door and said “she escaped – one of the sisters died trying to stop her. This is now personal.”
“More personal than you think,” Caroline said as she looked at the letter. “I told you to stay away from him whore. I warned you what would happen – now I have something else you care for. Tell no-one, wait for my call.”
“Miley? She took an innocent?” Helen looked at the others, and said “what do we do now?”
“We have tracking her in hand – we now know where she was. Karen asked a boon of the Sisters in case of such an eventuality – I have sent word for a specialist to come here.”
“In the meantime, we dedicate our resources to stopping her getting very far,” Penny said. “I’m going back to Dunmarnock – has Madame been informed?”
“I’ll call her in a minute,” Caroline said, “and ensure My Lady is brought in as well. Helen?”
“Find her,” she said quietly, “and when you find her and Miley, The Swan and I stand ready.”
Caroline nodded as Susan said “I need to talk to Colin – can I get a lift with you Penny?”
“No problem – and I’ll get Ama to talk to the other girls, be there for…”
She looked up as she heard the knock on the door, and said “come in,” watching as Laura opened the door and came in with Mike Babbage.
“Caroline? What’s happened?”
“Mike, we need your help,” she said as she handed the policeman the note. As he read it, his face paled before he said “Who?”
“Miley – John, get whoever you need here,” she said as she saw the colour in Laura’s cheeks. “Helen, can you ask Ama to come in before you go?”
Helen nodded as she, Penny and Colin left the room, while Mike picked up the telephone. “Oban Police Station. The Station commander.
“Inspector Pringle? This is DCI Mike Babbage, Metropolitan Police, calling from Ardray. Catherine Fitzstuart has taken a young girl hostage from here – I need a squad here, and your full cooperation in finding her.
“Excellent – and please, no sirens. Let’s keep what is happening on the QT for now.” Putting the phone down, he looked at Caroline and said “your security groups?”
“A specialist is coming,” Karen said as the others looked round. “Our job is to find them, bring Mylie back, and end this tonight.”
“I need to talk to Rory, get a search party out,” Mike said as he looked round.
Babbage if she hurts Miley than I will kill her," Laura gritted her teeth.
"And what good would that do?" Mike tried to sound reassuring. "Leave this to those of us who know what we are doing Laura, and I promise you we'll get Miley back safely."
"But everyone says she's a looney."
"She has problems it's true, but I'm pretty sure she wouldn't hurt anyone."
“I’m not so sure…”
“Laura,” Ama said quietly as she looked at the young girl, “please, have faith in those looking for her. They will find her, they will bring her safe home. Come with me – we will talk with the others…”
“Thank you Ama,” Caroline said quietly as Tamsin came in. “Is it true?”
“It is – Kit, would you sit with Ama and Laura please? Karen – who is coming…”
John and Shirley looked on as Catriona sat down, her face paling as she said “what steps have been taken?
“Good – if there is anything, ANYTHING I or Clarissa can do, let me know. And thank you for calling, Paula.” Putting the phone down, she shook her head before saying “Catherine has kidnapped one of the girls from the New House – young Miley.”
“WHAT?” Colin stood up and said “I need to…”
“Susan is on her way with Penny,” Catriona said as John looked at him. “Any idea where she is heading?”
“Not yet – apparently an expert has been called in. John, can you ask John Vosloo if he will help?”
“No problem – I’ll go and talk to him now,” he said as she and Colin left the room. Shirley looked at her, and quietly said “we find her, we rescue Miley, and we end it.”
“Agreed – I’ll get Cho back out there. You?”
“I think we need more help – when Penny gets here, we’ll get my special team on the ground. But we have to make sure nobody else knows what we are doing. We’re going to have to do the hardest thing of all.”
“Nothing? Tell me about it,” Catriona said as she looked round.
The New House
Donald came into the hallway, and called out “Where is everyone?”
“Lord Fitzstuart,” Karen said as she came out of the front room, “you are needed by Agnes. Please, come and sit with her.”
“What’s happened,” he said as he walked over.
“I am afraid your wife has been here, and has taken someone,” she said quietly as Donald looked at Agnes, her face drawn as she said “Donnie, she’s…”
“What’s been done?”
“All that can be done, DCI Babbage and Caroline Jameson are co-ordinating from here, but your place is with her – you must support each other, cone what may.”
innocent little Miley… Why did I bring
Miley into this danger Donald?" Agnes asked in strained tones. "If
Catherine hurts her this will all be my fault."
won't my love." Donald sat next to her and held her tight. "This is
Catherine's madness and nothing more. You never did anything to hurt her, and
you aren't to blame that in her insanity she's grabbed that poor lovely
"But if I
hadn't brought her to Scotland..."
"Then it would be another innocent person we'd be worrying for my darling."
“Donald – this has to end…”
“And it will,” Donald said as there was a knock on the door, and Susan came in with Colin. “Is there any news,” Colin asked quietly.
“Not yet – but what are you doing here, Colin? It’s bad luck the night before the wedding…”
"Agnes - if
she isn't found tonight Colin and I feel that we ought to cancel the wedding
tomorrow." Sue spoke softly.
wouldn't be right otherwise," Colin said as he held his wife-to-be's hand
kind of you to say," Donald spoke as he sat on the couch himself holding
Agnes's hand, "but whatever happens..."
"You two shouldn't be penalised," Agnes choked back her tears and interrupted. "You've both waited far too long to be married again, so whatever happens we aren't going to stop the wedding."
“But what if…”
“She will be found,” Donald said, “they cannot have got far…”
Miley was scared – the woman had bound her wrists in front of her with one end of a length of rope, and was now dragging her through the woods as she muttered to herself. But somehow, she was trying to be brave, as Laura and Aggie would want her to be.
you doing this to me?" Miley fought to stay calm and use the same tone of
voice she'd always used when her step-father started doing bad things to her as
they stopped in a clearing.
sure that bitch/whore knows that Donald Fitzstuart is
mine and mine alone," Catherine sounded unusually harsh. "He never
loved her, he was always meant to be mine...Do you hear that you little
Agnes seem very in love to..." Miley cried in pain as Catherine smacked
"he's not in love with her...DO YOU HEAR?" Catherine shouted as she pulled back her hand as if to smack Miley again. Miley stopped and looked directly into her eyes, seeing her stepfather in them, and fell silent. Catherine dropped her hand and pulled sharply as they set off again.
As she looked at Karen, the young African woman said “we need to join Itzy outside – the specialist I mentioned has arrived.”
“Good,” Caroline said as they went out the back – and then she stopped next to Mike Babbage as she watched what was happening.
hell is a bushman doing here in Scotland?" Caroline shook her head as the
San tracker squatted and looked at the ground around the treehouse.
"I had Liz
bring him over," Karen watched intently as Xan moved a few yards and
squatted again. "Something told me that we might need him and i was right I guess."
the little African guy Chief Inspector?" one of the local cops whispered
in Mike’s ear.
I can understand he's a member of the San people from Botswana called Xan. From
what Miss Kumalo was saying he's an incredible tracker."
"He says they went that way," Karen pointed as she translated the clicks and whistles that constituted most of the San language.
“Right – you two, follow him, stay in radio contact with me and Miss Jameson. The rest of you, fan out and protect the grounds. We don’t want her coming back.”
“I’ll go with him, and be in touch,” Itsy said as they set off.
“Come on Mike – we can set up a multi way telephone line in the breakfast room…”
In the drawing room, Sheilagh watched with Tamsin as Paula sat with Aileen.
ran upstairs for a few minutes Mummy to get something," Aileen started to
cry again as she looked round. “We could
have done something…”
darling," the Duchess said quietly as she put her arms round her daughter,
"it isn't your fault."
weren't to know," Tamsin looked shocked.
“None of us thought she would do this.”
nae have let her go outside on her own."
weren't to know either Sheilagh,"
"Then why do I feel so guilty Miss Tamsin? That poor bairn she's out there with a madwoman, she must be so scared."
“I’m sure she is,” Paula said quietly, “which is why we have to find her quickly…”
“I swear, I will kill her if she harms one hair on her head,” Laura said as she sat with Ama and Eve. “I will not let anyone hurt Miley again.”
“I understand the way you feel,” Eve said quietly, “but they will find her, and they will bring Catherine to justice.”
“Eve is right,” Ama said quietly, “leave the question of retribution to those who are best equipped to deal with it.”
“You mean the local coppers? Babbage I can tolerate, but I don’t trust the others.”
Ama nodded as she said “I know trust is a difficult thing for you, Laura, but please – trust me when I say she will pay.”
“As a base of operations, I have seen worse,” Mike Babbage said as he sat in Rory’s office with the factor and other officers.
“May it never be used for anything like this ever again,” Rory whispered as the telephone rang, and Mike pressed the speaker button. “Hello?”
“Mike – Caroline. Any news there?”
“Not yet – how is the trail going?”
“Our expert has
her scent if you will - She seems to be heading towards Dunmarnock,"
Caroline's voice came over the speaker phone.
this open ground," the listeners heard Itsy's
voice as well.
"She wants to try hide in the forest." Rory spoke softly.
"Can we deploy some of the people at Dunmarnock to block her path?"
"I'll ring Miss Catriona," Rory spoke again, "get Angus and a few of his people out in the trees."
“Caroline – is anyone else on the trail?”
“Let’s just say other teams are making their way there – we’ll update you when we have more,” Caroline said as the call ended, and Rory dialled a number.
“Angus, it’s Rory. You up to speed on what’s happening?”
“Ye’ve got a tracker on her?”
“Aye – and she’s heading your way.”
“We anticipated there – we have a couple of experts here looking at things…”
John?" John Hammond asked as the Colonel inspected the very detailed map.
feels almost like the bad old days," John Vosloo
shook his head.
Anyway you are the one with experience in this type of situation, if you were
her what would you be doing?"
some idea of the forces chasing me then I'd be first trying to get out of the
district, and if I couldn't do that then I'd be looking to go to ground in
Sir John stroked his chin. "So we need to keep her from getting to the
and not knowing if she has confederates out there to help her then we need to
be patrolling the road ourselves, but we need get our police friends stopping
and checking traffic."
in hand Sir," one of the police officers spoke.
"Inspector Pringle is having road blocks set up as we speak."
“Forgive me, Sir John, Colonel Vosloo,” Angus said as he came in, “but there’s news she’s heading for the woods here.”
Looking at the map again, John nodded as he said “how many men can you get into the woods?”
“How many do you need?”
frustrating," Shirley said crossly as she paced up and down in the Morning
Madame," Penny looked up from her computer, "but without breaking our
cover we can hardly barge in on the police and the others and get
"So we are
forced to pretend like we are helpless women?"
really Madame, we just have to do what we normally do and act in secret."
Lillian and her team?"
"About here," Penny said as she pointed to the enlarged Google Earth picture on her screen. "They are working their way along the side of the loch in case Lady Catherine has a boat or something she's intending to use."
“What about Cho and her team?”
“Covering the other side. With Itsy and her team coming from the New House, we’ve got her in a pincer movement – I hope…”
feel so helpless darling," Mandy sobbed as he held her close, "so out
of it, so far away..."
he interrupted, "put that thought aside please. For everyone’s sake,
especially young Miley, it’s better that we are here and safely out of the way.
The last thing they need is extra people cluttering the place up and getting in
"I know, I
know,” Mandy whispered, “but well Donald is family, and Aggie and Miley are all
but. I just want to help however I can."
Dad, do you want some tea? It might help?" Angel offered.
can't hurt darling," Will smiled at his daughter.
Angel stood up.
help her," Pepsi said as she followed her friend out the door.
volunteer our help with the search Dad?" Jack asked, "David, Billy
and me we could be out with one of the search parties you know?"
“I did,” Will
said quietly, "but your Uncle Donald said leave it to the people they've
already got son."
know," Jack shook his head, "but I guess like mum I feel a little
keep thinking what if it was one of my girls out there with that lunatic,"
Kelly Rochermann looked pale.
glad that Eddie is safe...If that doesn't sound too selfish?" Olivia whispered
as she held Fiona's hand.
natural Bandit darling," Mandy smiled at her old friend. “Given what she has done already…”
"Donnie?" Will practically shouted as his phone rang and he answered it.
“Will – no word yet, but they’ve brought in an expert tracker. She’s apparently heading towards Dunmarnock, so with luck we will find her.”
“Beside herself – I’ll let you know if we hear anything else…”
rang Ian Doig and he's agreed to draft in extra police, and Neville Patterson
has said he will put military helicopters, and search and rescue personnel at
our disposal if we request them," Sir Simon said as he put the phone down.
least the Permanent Secretary network is good for something," Lady Fiona
tried to lighten the mood, even though she herself felt more than just a
little panicked and worried.
just chatting to her at lunch," Queen Therese shook her head, "she was
just enjoying everything so much."
Terri," Francesca said as she passed her old friend a glass of whiskey,
"I was too."
"She will be fine...I'm sure." Klaus tried to project a confidence he wasn't really feeling inside.
“They have the very best people searching for her…” Juliette said as she contemplated what she wanted to do to Catherine…
The New House
when she gave her predictions at Francesca's dinner party said we would feel
great loss and pain Donald," Agnes sniffed back her latest tears, "as
always it seems the Umlimo was right. The longer
Miley is away from us the more I feel that we are maybe losing her."
get her back...They have to," Donald said as he pulled her even closer.
this may sound wrong, but should we maybe contact her actual parents?"
Sherry Babbage asked.
wouldn't like that." Laura replied.
don't seem to have cared enough to really look for her, I looked at the case
file," Mike looked up from his mobile.
"The people who care most about her in this world are in this room," Tamsin looked in turn at Laura, Donald, then Agnes. "Her REAL family are here, not in Basingstoke."
“Thanks,” Laura said with a weak smile as Kylie came in. “I needed that – she needed that…”
Catherine pushed Miley to the ground and hid behind the bush as another line of men walked past, shining torches round. The young girl was too scared to speak, but she knew she would have to do something.
“They’ve got the wood paths covered,” Catherine muttered to herself, “but so far, they haven’t found me. Come on whore – we’re moving again.”
She pulled Mylie to her feet, failing to notice the button from her coat she had pulled off and let drop to the ground…
The New House
“There must be something we can do, darling,” Kylie said as she walked through the hallway with Helen.
“There will be the opportunity, I am sure,” Helen said quietly, “but until we have a firm location for her, there is…”
She held her hand up as she answered her phone. “Penny – what has happened?”
“As of now, not much – but we are encircling her, and she is coming this way. Helen, we need you and Kylie here now – there is a chance we will have her location soon.”
Mike Babbage looked up as his mobile phone rang, and he said “if this is not vitally important…
“Okay, that counts. Can you do this?
“When we have an idea, we will let you know, and you can do what needs to be done. Be assured, it will be remembered.”
“what’s going on,” Caroline said as she looked over.
“A backup plan,” Mike said, “a way of getting Mylie away once we find them.”
The woods near Dunmarnock House
Xan held his hand up, the group with him stopping suddenly as he motioned Liz to come forward. As she did so, the group watched carefully as he spoke and picked something up from the ground, Liz nodding as she came over.
“It is – a button from her coat – we’re on the right track. Xan says we move on.”
She looked from side to side, hearing the sound of vehicles on a nearby road – but also the sound of voices talking, looking for her.
“I said to be quiet,” Catherine hissed at Miley as the sun started to set over the trees, and then she felt her phone vibrate. Looking at it, she cursed whoever had sent the junk text, and pulled Miley behind her.
Lily looked at Louise and Tracy, and then at the lights dancing in the trees.
“Lily has her on her screen,” Penny said as she looked at Shirley, while the door opened and Helen came in with Kylie.
“Ladies – we have need of both of you,” Shirley said quietly. “Penny will give you the coordinates. Do what needs to be done.”
Xan held up his hand and then pointed to some moving branches.
“Mike,” Caroline said quietly, “we have a visual on her. Heading to the centre of the woods. Any thoughts?”
“Maintain visual contact, but do not approach,” she heard Mike Babbage say. “I have a plan.”
As Mike took out his mobile phone, he smiled grimly as he dialled a contact.
“I’m texting you her position – don’t let me down.”
“Damn – it’s getting too dark,” Catherine said as she looked at Miley. The little girl began shaking as the woman moved towards her, seeing the look in her eyes…
She turned sharply to where the new arrival was, then spoke quietly. “Gregson? How the hell did you find me?”
“I have been searching for you, my lady,” Gregson said quietly, “I have a car waiting to take you to safety. Come with me.”
“How did you get past the search parties,” Catherine said as she cocked her head to the side.
“I am a policeman, my lady – I told them I was searching as well, but we do not have much time. They are closing in on you.”
“What about the brat?”
“You could leave her here – if she is found unharmed, they are less likely to look for you.”
Catherine looked at him, and then at Miley, before she said “no – she has seen too much, heard too much, and it will break the whore’s heart” as she looked at Gregson. She saw a slight twitch in his cheek, before he nodded and said “if you wish, my lady.”
“Good,” she said as she turned around – only to see an empty space where Miley had been standing. “What the f… - YOU! You’re a fucking decoy!” As Gregson took two steps back, Catherine started to charge him, her eyes wild with fury…
Miley nodded as she recognised the voice, wondering why Kylie’s hand was over her mouth.
“I’m going to untie your wrists,” Kylie said as they heard Catherine yowling, “and then I want you to walk quickly and quietly in the direction I will show you. Caroline will meet you down that path, and get you back to the New House. Nod if you understand.”
Miley slowly nodded as Kylie whispered “good – hold your hands out.” She saw the glint of the setting sun on metal before she shook her hands free, and she heard Kylie say “go quickly – do not look back, safety is waiting.” Mylie nodded as the hand was taken away, and she whispered “thank you” before she walked down the path Kylie had indicated.
“I’ll kill you, and then I’ll kill all of them,” Catherine screamed as she clawed at Gregson, the police officer trying to deflect her blows with his arms but failing as blow after blow fell on him.
“My lady, I swear…”
“SHUT THE FUCK U…”
Gregson heard her go silent, and then looked up as Catherine looked straight ahead, her eyes wide open before she fell onto her side, and he saw the dark figure standing behind her. She looked at him, and then slipped into the lengthening shadows as Gregson got onto his knees and checked for a pulse.
“You saw nothing, heard nothing. She just fell over. Do you understand?”
The policeman nodded as the voice faded, and he took his phone out.
Caroline ran over and embraced the young girl as she ran to the group, sobbing into Caroline’s stomach and then staring at the small bushman who was standing there, smiling.
“Come on,” Caroline said as she squatted down and looked into Miley’s eyes. “You’re safe now, and I know someone is going to be so happy to see you safe.”
“The mad woman – she was attacking a man back there…”
“We’ll take care of that – come with me.”
“We have a car nearby Miss Jameson,” one of the officers said as Caroline walked with Miley, putting her phone to her ear.
The New House
Mike listened to the call, and then whispered “thank god – and Catherine?
“No – quite right, I’ll find out soon enough. Get her… Caroline, I have another call coming in. I’ll call you back.”
Pressing a button, he said “Gregson?
“Understood – a team is on their way to you now. Cooperate with them – we will talk later.”
Ending the call, he looked at Rory. “There’s a cold and hungry young girl on her way back – any chance your wife can rustle something up?”
Rory nodded and smiled as he said “Aye – leave that with me. Will ye inform Miss Agnes?”
Mike nodded as he walked slowly out of the room, and towards the drawing room. As he walked in the door, Agnes looked over while Tamsin and Laura stood up.
“Mike? What happened?”
“Agnes… We have Miley safe. Caroline is heading back with her now. She’s cold, and a little sore, but fine.”
“Oh thank god,” Agnes said as she sat heavily down, the tears flowing as Tamsin sat with her.
Donald looked over as Mike said “I have other news. I have to tell you that Catherine, Lady Fitzstuart, is dead.”
“I had an officer who was on her payroll working for me. He says he managed to distract her long enough for Miley to escape, and then she attacked him – before she had some sort of seizure. We have a medical team on the way, but…”
Donald looked round the room, and said “but Miley is safe?”
“Come here,” Laura said as she swept Miley up in her arms, “thank you, Mr Babbage, thank you.”
“Miss Miley – oh my poor wee lamb, how are you?”
“I’m hungry,” Miley said as Sheilagh came in and hugged her.
“Aye, well – come wi me. A hot bath and some supper, and you’ll feel much better.”
“Is it all right, Agnes?”
“Go on – we’ll talk later,” Agnes said as she watched Miley take Sheilagh’s hand and walk off.
“Caroline – we need to talk,” Mike said as he walked Caroline out, Ama watching as she said “I will tell the girls the good news.”
“I’ll come with you,” Tamsin said as they left Laura, Agnes and Donald alone.
"Mum she's safe," Laura said as she threw her arms round Agnes’ neck and hugged her.
"I know she is," Agnes whispered as she held her tight, and then realised what the girl had said. Looking at the teenager, she said "did you just call me Mum darling?"
"I don't know," for a second Laura looked confused, "did I?"
"Yes you did," Aggie was both crying and laughing as she looked the youngster straight in the eyes.
"I'm sorry Aggie," Laura pulled away.
"Why be sorry darling?"
She looked at the older woman, as she said "you… You aren't offended that I called you Mum?"
"Far from it," Aggie pulled her close for another hug, "I'll be honest it's one of the loveliest things that has ever happened to me."
"Do I get a hug as well Laura?" Donald asked.
"Yes," Laura said as she tentatively approached the man, not sure what might happen, but suddenly feeling good when he hugged her.
"I'm sorry about Catherine Donald," Aggie said as she joined in a threesome hug.
“Donald – she was still your wife.”
“In name only – I had started divorce proceedings, but more to the point – it’s over Aggie. After twenty years, it is finally over.”
Agnes nodded as Donald leaned over and kissed her, Laura shaking her head as she said “I need to see Miley…”
“Susan,” Colin said as his fiancée ran into the room, “what is it?”
Miley away safely darling," Sue said as she hugged Colin.
"Thank God!" Colin said as he hugged her. “And Catherine…”
"Lady Catherine had some kind of attack...she's dead."
Colin paused and thought, "well she's not going to be exactly
know," suddenly a look came over Sue's face and she grinned, "you
know it's a pity that it can't be done, but wouldn't it be amazing if Lord
Donald and Aggie could make it a double wedding with us tomorrow
would be nice," Colin said as he kissed the woman he loved, "but not
practical. For starters we are getting married in the wrong cathedral..."
"I know," Sue laughed, "and if I know Aggie, and i just happen to do so, then she will want to try and make her wedding as much like how it was originally planned to be twenty years ago as possible."
“I need to get back to Dunmarnock – they’ll have heard the news by now. I’ll see you tomorrow at the Cathedral.”
“All right Ian,” Sir Simon said as he looked round the room, “and thank everyone for me. I’ll see Donald in the morning - he’ll have to take care of the formalities.”
is dead, but little Miley is safe," Sir Simon said as he turned his phone
God for that," Lady Fiona said a little prayer to herself. "And I
don't mean thanks for her being dead."
what you mean Fiona," Juliette smiled.
means I think we will all be coming back for another wedding some time,"
Terri smiled broadly as she looked round.
husband will finally get to walk Agnes down that aisle, and she will at long
last become Lady Donald Fitzstuart."
actually that might not be true..."
what's to stop them now Simon?" Lady Fiona interrupted
getting married? Nothing, beyond the needs of decorum... But I know something that means she might not
be Lady Donald afterwards."
Klaus said as she held his glass, “what might that be?"
to get a life peerage in the New Year’s Honours list."
"No, and you can't tell him, but it will maybe mean whatever he chooses as his title, Aggie will become Lady that."
“So she becomes Lady something, the McAdam of McAdam?”
“Indeed – but what’s in a title…”
Donald." Will hung up the phone and looked round the room.
darling?" Mandy looked as though she could barely contain herself as she
"They got Miley back safely, but something happened to Catherine... she's dead." Will looked up as he said, "I'm so sorry Victoria."
"Maybe it's for the best," Victoria Gordon started to cry as Archie put his arms round her. "She wasn't the sister I knew and loved anymore, and she was going to have to be locked up for the rest of her life."
“Dead – so it’s all over now?” Olivia said as she sat with Charlie.
“It is – bar the wedding…”
The New House
“That’s all I can tell you, Mr Babbage,” Miley said as she sat at the kitchen table, wearing a dressing gown over her pyjamas as Sheilagh and Laura sat with her. “When the other man distracted her, I ran, managed to free my wrists, and then saw your group. What happened to her?”
Mike looked at the police officer who was taking notes, and nodded as he said “You don’t need to worry about her – she cannot hurt you or anyone else again. Right now, I think what you need is a good night’s sleep, and then to enjoy the wedding tomorrow.” As he looked to the door, he saw Agnes and Donald standing there.
“Laura – can you cuddle me tonight?”
“Of course I can,” the older girl said as she looked round and smiled. “Hello Aggie, Donald.”
Miley turned and smiled as well as she said “I’m glad you all found me. And I’m sorry if I scared you Aggie.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Agnes said as she came over and kissed Miley on the head, “Mr Babbage is right, you and Laura go up to your bed. I’ll see you both in the morning, and we put this behind us forever.”
Miley nodded as she stood up and walked over, then hugged both of them before she took Laura’s hand and they walked up the stairs.
“The team are inspecting the site,” he said as he stood up and rubbed his eyes. “Gregson – the other officer – came to see me some weeks ago and confessed he worked for your wife, Lord Donald. I’ll spare you the sordid details of how it happened, but he wanted to help us bring her in. I’m sorry I couldn’t say more before, but we had no idea who was in her orbit.”
Donald nodded as he said “I guess I need to do the formal identification. Where have they taken her?”
“The local morgue – it can wait till the morning if…”
“No,” Donald said as he shook his head, “I want to get it over and done with. Let’s go – Aggie…”
“I’ll wait for you to come back,” Agnes said as she stroked his cheek.
“I’m sorry I scared you, Laura,” Mylie said as the older girl hugged her in the bed.
“It’s okay – I’m glad you’re safe,” Laura said quietly.
“Listen – I need to tell you sumfin. I didn’t run away – someone dragged me back, cut me free, and told me which way to go.”
“I fink it was Kylie – should I tell them?”
Laura shook her head. “No – let that be a secret between us.”
Shirley and Penny looked up as Helen came back into the room.
“We have heard the good news,” Shirley said, “what happened?”
“We watched until the other officer distracted her,” Helen said, “which allowed Kylie to get Mylie away. I then dealt finally with Lady Fitzstuart – direct pressure to the cranial nerve. There will be no marks, and I ensured the officer will remain silent.”
Shirley nodded as she said “thank the Goddess we could do this quietly – rest now. We have a busy day ahead.”
County Chest Hospital
Donald stood with Mike as the mortuary attendant turned on the light on the other side of the glass, the local commander watching as he turned the cloth back.
“Yes,” Donald said quietly as he looked at Catherine, “that is my wife. Any idea on the cause of death yet?”
“We cannot say until an autopsy is performed – and that will be Monday – but there is no external sign of trauma,” the commander said. “It is as if she just – shut down. I have seen this before – the nervous system collapses under severe stress.”
Donald nodded and closed his eyes for a moment, before saying “I will be at Kilcraig House or the New House in Ardray if you need me, or Sir Simon at Invermuir can act as a contact.”
“Of course, Lord Fitzstuart – and good luck tomorrow,” the commander said as the attendant covered Catherine’s face, and turned the light off.