The Mousetrap – Part 3
“There you are – what kept you,” Peter said as he stood and kissed Alex.
“Lady talk – Will, and this is?”
“Allow me to make the introductions – Mohammed al Salim, this is John and Marianne Vosloo, Peter and Alex Hope-Green – and Francesca, Marchesa di Cambrello.”
“Ah yes – Angel Fitzstuart rode for you today,” Marianne said as he shook the hands of the men, and kissed the women on the cheek.
“Have we met before,” he said as he looked at Francesca.
“I do not believe so – perhaps it was at a race meeting?”
Mohammed nodded and said “possibly…”
“So where is Susan Shirley?” Juliette asked as their order was taken.
“Susan? She and Clint are staying with her in-laws at their house in Long Beach. It gives Clint’s parents the chance to get time with April.”
“Grandparent time,” Klaus smiled, “something I will admit to taking every opportunity to enjoy myself.”
“A pleasure that John and I hopefully will get to enjoy one day,” Shirley said with a smile.
“Does Maisha have a boyfriend yet?”
“She’s been out with a couple of the lads from the tennis club,” John said, “but I don’t think there is anyone serious yet.”
“Well she has plenty of time,” Juliette said, “and she is still young.”
“Not that much younger than Carina.”
“True – but Carina is a mother of three. Not ready for that yet,” John laughed.
“And she does have a lot else she wants to do in her life,” Shirley said with a smile.
“Indeed. Agnes was telling us this afternoon how she’s helping plan out a schedule of classes to make Maisha ready to go study at the LSE.”
“That’s true – she needs to do some more formal qualifications, but she is also going for an interview in the New Year. She sees it as her path to doing what she wants to do with her life.”
“Which is what if I might ask Shirley?” Klaus said as he sipped from his glass.
“Working in the field of sustainable economic development in Africa.”
“A highly worthwhile ambition,” Juliette said, “and is that why I overheard her talking intently to John Vosloo about something in Botswana earlier?”
“It might well have been,” Shirley smiled slightly. “She is taking a great deal of interest in the work Francesca and Charlotte are doing out there.” She looked over to where Francesca was sitting, and noticed her standing and leaving the room after Kay Cromwell.
As did Eleanor…
“Francesca,” Kay said as she closed the door, “enjoying your conversation with Mohammed?”
“I do not think enjoy is the right word,” Francesca said quietly.
“You know him, don’t you?”
“It was a long time ago – but yes, I have crossed paths with him before,” Francesca said quietly.
“You’ve been on edge all day – what’s going on?”
“The sins of the past. Kay - without asking questions, or even how I know this, can I ask you to put your LA people on standby to help in an operation?”
“Francesca I thought you were retired?”
“Properly I am,” the Italian noblewoman said, “but I may need to clean up a mess I made 25 years ago, and better that I ask you for help than get Eleanor and the Americans involved.”
“They may need deniability?” the British woman looked curious.
Nodding, Kay said “how big an incident are you about to create Francesca?”
“Hopefully I’m not going to create anything, but the way the stars are aligning I may need get someone safely out of the way.”
“When you say out of the way you don’t mean?” Kay slightly gestured as though she was cutting her throat.
“No, nothing like that. This is to do with getting an agent away to safety if her cover is finally broken.”
“So it’s an extraction?”
“It might turn out to be one, but as I said I’m hoping it will all die down.”
“And if it comes to it?”
“Destination is known, we can discuss that if we need to.”
Kay nodded, and said “let me make a couple of quick phone calls.”
“Thank you old friend,” Francesca said as Kay left the room – and Shirley came in.
“Can I be of
help Francesca?" she said quietly.
"Yes,” Shirley said quietly. “Help with whatever it is that has had you in a panic most of the day. And before you deny that you know fully well I can tell when something serious might be about to happen."
"You might be better off not getting involved Madame," Francesca whispered, "leave this to the intelligence community."
"I understand that darling. Just understand that if you need us my organization will give whatever aid you ask for."
Francesca nodded as they headed out…
“How are things between you and Peter nowadays Alex? I’ve been meaning to ask” Marianne asked quietly as the table was cleared, Peter talking to John quietly.
“Pretty much as they’ve always been Marianne,” she sighed.
“So you still think he is seeing other women?”
“I can’t prove it,” Alex said quietly as she sat with her eyes down. “He’s too good at covering his tracks for that, but yes I guess I’ve always suspected there are others out there, and that there still are.”
“In part I guess,” Alex laughed, “but also little clues that I’ve learned to be suspicious of during a long career in ‘the trade’. Little unexplained absences, whispered conversations, etc.”
“He is a spy you know?”
“I know, but this has never felt like work, it’s always felt too personal to be merely him covering business matters.”
Nodding, Marianne sighed as she said “I’m just glad that John’s always been pretty open with me.”
“I’ve even caught him on the phone while we have been here in the States you know?”
It was Marianne’s turn to look shocked. “Surely not?”
“Earlier today,” Alex sighed again. “I love him, but at times… Well, let’s just leave it at that for now.”
“Do you regret never having children?”
“As much as you do Marianne – but you had a surrogate daughter in Charlotte Gordon. I never had that luxury – and now I see her with Francesca…”
Nodding, Marianne said “I know – to be a complete family again…”
“So let us discuss the true matter of the moment,” Nessa said as she looked round the table, “who is going to win tomorrow – Saints’N’Sinners or Acadaria?”
Sandy wiped her mouth as she said “I have stopped taking bets – it’s too close to call.”
“And Guy and I are staying right out of this one – what about you Francesca?”
“Oh no – I value my friendships in both camps too much to say anything,” Francesca said as she looked round. “I wish to have a happy social life after this weekend both sides of the Atlantic.”
As Kay walked back in from the lobby, she was taken by surprise as Eleanor took her by the arm and walked her back again to the washrooms.
“What the fuck is going on Commander Cornwall?” Eleanor hissed, as she made sure they couldn’t be overheard.
“Now why would you think anything is going on as you put it Captain Ball?”
“The simple fact that Francesca is as skittish as a cat. That I’ve seen her holding several whispered conversations, and that after I saw her take you in the powder room you started working that phone of yours like a demon.” Taking a deep breath, Eleanor whispered “Something is going to happen Kay and you either tell me, or I alert my son the FBI agent that several foreign spies may be about to do something on US soil.”
“Look Eleanor darling I can’t say anything,” Kay said as she held her hands up, “because Francesca has only really given me a heads up that something might need doing.”
“Just take it from me though that you and your government might want to be able to say that you have no idea what is going on, and that you weren’t involved.”
“Alright I get that, but I’m speaking here as a friend of both yours and Francesca’s Kay, not as a former agent.”
“That officially I’m out of the game, so if you do need my help it won’t create a situation for my government, and that as your friend I want to help if I can.”
Nodding, Kay said “Eleanor, if I was to ask a question, one I could ask several people in the room today.”
“You, Veronica Joyce, Liz Egwegwe, Princess Itzy – even, if I’m right, Marianne Vosloo and others?”
“I may have to plausibly deny a few things.”
“Well, know this. Francesca is worried an asset is in danger of being uncovered, and wants her saved if that happens with minimal fuss and plausible deniability all round.”
Eleanor nodded, and said “and if I asked you the same question?”
“I’d give the same answer as you.”
Eleanor nodded as she said “I know who to talk to when the time comes. Let’s just hope it does not come to that…”
8 pm PT
The Clarke Apartment
“Well, that was a good day,” David said as he sat on his favourite chair, Mary smiling as she held her mug, “how are the others?”
“The boys are in bed, Suzie should be back in half an hour, and the girls are talking in their room,” Mary said with a smile.
“Took Sarah to the pictures.” Taking a sip from her mug, she said “Pops – Allyson. I think she’s finally learned her lesson.”
“Yeah – I saw she was being more sensible today. What happened – what we said finally got through?”
“From the sound of things, it was Agnes McAdam’s daughters who got through to them, but yeah – something settled in.” As the telephone rang, Dave walked over and picked up the receiver.
“Oh hey Maddie – what can I do for you?
Mary turned and looked at her father as he raised an eyebrow.
“Let me talk to David, see if he can bring the others tomorrow while Mary and I come early. I’ll call you once I’ve talked to both of them.”
“Who’s on the phone,” Suzie said as she came in and took her coat off.
“Maddie,” Mary said as her father put the phone down. “What’s up Pops?”
“Maddie wants to see you and me tomorrow morning, with Missy and – have you met Rhenia?”
“She’s the comptroller at Norstar,” Suzie said, and then she and Mary looked at each other. “You did say Missy and Maddie, right?”
“I did – why?”
“Now I get what you say about her,” Suzie said as she sat down. “Pops, remember when I went to Sydney?”
“Yes, Missy took me to one side and…
10 pm PT
Hilton Los Angeles
“Well, that was a nice meal,” Alex said as she placed her purse on the bed, Peter closing the door behind her. “But I am about ready for my bed.”
“Yeah – it has been a good day,” Peter said as he slipped his jacket off and hung it in the wardrobe, “but before you get ready, I need ot ask you something Alex.”
“Oh – and what is that,” she said as she sat at the dressing table, and removed her earrings.
“When did you first meet Francesca di Cambrello?”
“Francesca? I told you last week – I spent a year at the Italian Naval Academy when she was there.”
“You did – and that’s the funny thing, because when she was in South Africa, we thought she went to the University of Pisa.”
Alex turned and looked at her husband, before she said “from what I read in the files of her time there, that was what we did believe, but I knew the truth from our later files.”
“And you never met between then and last week?”
“No – Peter, where are you going with this?”
He smiled as he said “nowhere – it’s my natural curiosity, that’s all. Let’s get to bed.”
“I’ll follow you up in a minute,” John Vosloo said as he looked into the hotel bar, Marianne nodding as she headed to the lift. “Liz – spare me a few minutes, will you?”
“Of course John – what’s wrong?”
“I wish I knew,” he said as they walked into the bar, smiling as Hennie Botha stood up to greet them.
“I have to say retirement seems to be suiting both of you,” he said as they sat with him. “Maybe I should consider it myself.”
“And the springbok may thrive again,” Liz said quietly. “What are you really doing here Sir?”
“Cauterising an old wound, I suspect.” Hennie sipped his whisky, before he said “and I need you two to keep out fo my way for the next forty eight hours. If I’m wrong, no harm done, but if I’m right, we may finally, FINALLY put the wounds the Marchesa caused to bed.”
“And why should we do that,” Liz asked as she saw Itzy and Karen sit at the bar.
“For old times sake – if this woman is a Sister, then I am sorry, but if she is who I think she is, she has things to pay for.”
“And when will you know?”
Hennie smiled as he said “I’ll tell you one way or the other, but I wanted to let you know. For old time’s sake, stay out of our way.”
Hennie smiled as he stood up and walked off, John and Liz looking at each other before Liz said “should we warn them?”
“No – I’ll talk to Francesca tomo…” He then stopped as he looked to the entrance to the bar, the older woman coming in with a young man.
“That – that’s Andrea di Matteo.”
“Should I know the name?”
“No – but look at the young man with her. Remind you of anyone?”
Liz looked over, and then nodded as she said “Peter Hope. There were rumours even when I was at the ring, but this is proof…”
“It’s more than that – I think Francesca might be right to be worried…”
Saturday 5th November
10 am Local Time
As the helicopter slowly came down onto the large green lawn, the woman stood, her hands clasped together, her red cheongsam undisturbed by the motion of the blades as they slowly came to a stop. She then walked forward as the pilot got out and opened the door at the rear, the thin woman stepping out in a red trouser suit over a black jumper, and ankle boots.
“Welcome,” she said with a low bow as they came closer, the pilot now carrying a bag. “The Honoured Father awaits, if you will come this way, Miss Harker?”
“Thank you,” Penny said as she bowed in return, and they walked up to the house, the pilot handing the bag to another servant as Penny followed her to the large double doors. She paused as the woman knocked on the door, opened it and said “Miss Penelope Harker has arrived.”
“Show her in.”
As she walked in, Penny stood with her head bowed and her hands clasped in front of her. “I thank you for allowing me to visit you, Honoured Father,” she said quietly, “and I bring greetings from my esteemed employer, Madame X.”
“Welcome my child,” Feng Lui said as he waked forward, “you may raise your head. Some tea – our other guests should be arriving shortly.” The woman bowed her head and left the room as Penny was surprised to feel the hug, and then said “I thank you for the greeting.”
“Come – let us not stand on ceremony, this is a special day,” he said with a smile as he indicated the red leather chairs, both of them sitting as the day was brought in. “How is Madame? I had heard the news of her upcoming nuptials, and hope you will pay me the honour of taking a small gift back with you when you return for the occasion.”
“The honour would be mine,” Penny said quietly as she accepted the cup, “but I presumed Cathy would be attending as well?”
“I believe she is invited, but I wish this to be from me personally – ah, I see our other guests have arrived.”
Penny stood and turned as Cathy Lu came in, wearing a blue blazer over a roll neck sweater dress – and behind her was Helen, wearing a black jumper and pants, the smile broadening on her face as she saw Penny before she along with Cathy bowed their heads in greeting.
“You have summoned us, Honoured Father, and we are here,” Cathy said quietly, “but we are also pleased to see your other guest has arrived safely.”
“I am sure she is glad to see you arrive safely as well,” Feng Lui said quietly. “Come, sit, take some tea, and then while you and I discuss business, I am sure Helen and Penelope would appreciate the chance to talk together…”
“May I ask where Beverley is,” Penny asked as she sat with Helen.
“She is undertaking some duties today for me at the factory,” Cathy said with a smile, “she was out last night with Helen performing other tasks.”
Penny raised any eyebrow as Helen nodded, before saying “as with my previous students, she had proven a most capable student – she executed your request to the letter, Honoured Father, with maximum effectiveness.”
As Feng Lui nodded, Penny whispered “how are you, my love?”
“I am – returning to normal,” Helen said with a smile. “I have spent time in meditation, and talking, and I have resolved how I felt that night. It is as if a door has finally closed – and the future is fully opened.”
Penny nodded as she squeezed her lover’s hand, Cathy and Fang Lui noticing.
“Forgive me,” Penny said with a smile.
“It is only natural. May I ask what you know of the origins of the Honourable Society which I have the distinct honor of belonging to Miss Harker?”
Penny looked at the old man, and said “beyond the little that Helen has told me then I must admit very little.”
“It’s something we have striven to keep hidden over the centuries,” the old man smiled, “and yes I did centuries. We Chinese place great stead in tradition and our ancestry.”
“I had no idea it was so ancient,” Penny whispered as she shook her head.
“The Honourable Society started as a group of merchants banding together for support and defence, particularly from aggressors and interlopers,” Feng Lui said as he sat forward, “and to this day that remains our primary aim.”
“You might call it a mutual benefit organization,” Cathy murmured. “A cooperative.”
Nodding, Penny said “I think I understand a little of that.”
“Unlike similar groups, however,” Feng Lui continued, “we have always tended to be outward looking in our activities, and not focused just on China. We welcomed contacts with the rest of the world at a time when many wished to keep our frontiers closed.”
“Something we still try and do,” Cathy spoke again.
“A laudable thing Honoured Father. I would presume to say the mutual benefits our organizations have shared through our cooperation have been greatly appreciated.”
“Thank you child,” the man said before he paused and took a deep breath. “Current events however may be leading to a situation in which we are forced to take sides in conflicts that can ultimately bring no good to anyone.”
“The political developments that you asked this unworthy ones opinion upon Honoured Master?” Helen spoke.
“Indeed. The election this coming week in America is, I fear, going to provide a result that will benefit no-one in the long term, and cause real problems in the shorter term.”
“Forgive me, Honoured Father,” Penny said as she looked over, “but are you telling me he may actually win?”
“You stopped some of the influencing, but I fear too late to affect the result,” Cathy said, “and other similar movements are seeking to gain footholds in the European markets.”
“As basically traders and merchants,” Feng Lui said, “we basically desire freedom of access to all markets possible for our various goods and services. We are however also patriots Miss Harker, wishing the best for China and its people.”
“So I understood from the uses that you put the gold we recovered in London to.” Penny smiled.
“Yes we were able to put it to use in the spirit in which it was originally donated,” Feng Lui allowed himself a smile.
“The Honoured Master wishes to assure Madame, and your organizations many other associates that whatever happens we will strive to continue to stand with you.” Cathy said quietly.
“And on her behalf, I assure you we will continue to support you in any endeavours you undertake,” Penny said, “but will it really be that bad?”
“Let us pray it is not, but it is always best to be prepared. Now, you may go and spend some time together, my children. Catherine and I need to discuss – private matters.”
“Of course, Honoured Father,” Helen said as she and Penny stood, bowed, and walked to where the young Chinese woman was standing by the door. As she closed it, Helen whispered “and breath. Hello my love.”
“Hello,” Penny whispered before they kissed. “You are truly recovering?”
“I am – come, we shall walk in the gardens.”
“So are you allowed to discuss what Beverley did last night?”
“Let me put it this way – she has a remarkable ability with the ancient arts I practice. I think she may surpass the Mongoose and the Swan.”
“And does she have a name now as well?”
“Oh yes – she has been named Sī yǐng.”
“And that means?”
“The Silk Shadow…”
Hilton Los Angeles
As he entered the bar area, Hennie Botha looked round for a moment, and then walked over to where the two men were talking at a side table.
“So this is where you hang out to discuss matters,” he said as he sat down.
“Indeed – Mohamed al Salim, allow me to introduce you to General Henrik Botha, head of SAIS. General, I believe you know Mr al Salim by reputation.”
“Indeed,” Hennie said as they shook hands, “so why are you not in bed with your wife Peter? Either of them?”
Al Salim raised an eyebrow as Peter said “I know you did not mean to say that out loud.”
“Didn’t I? Let me put it this way then – why am I not in my bed?”
“Mr al Salim and I were discussing past history,” Peter said as he looked at the other two men.
“Really? How far past?”
“1990 – in Rome?”
Hennie sat up and said “I remember that – but why are you talking about it now?”
“We need to be honest with each other first, General – was someone following me there?”
“No – someone was following him,” Hennie said as he looked at al Salim. The Arab nodded and chuckled as he said “I can understand that – I think our mutual friend here was the only South African operative I knew well at that time. It was understandable.”
“Especially given the state of flux the country was in at the time – but to get back to basics, what do you know of the reason I was there?”
“Nothing – except you came home and were damn lucky to keep your job,” Hennie said quietly. “It was the first shadow job I gave John Vosloo to do.”
Peter and Mohamed looked at each other, before Peter said “this was before the true role of the Marchesa was revealed, correct?”
“She was just Francesca di Cambrello then, but yeah – and do not remind me of that time,” Hennie said in a dangerous voice.
“Sadly, we may need to – I was on a mission to obtain certain details of a missile targeting system from the manufacturer, and we were using his daughter as leverage. The mission, however, was a failure – because she was rescued by two female operatives, I presume from La Citadella.”
“So you got caught with your trousers down?”
“Metaphorically speaking,” Peter said with a shrug, “but as Mr al Salim has told me tonight, he did see who they were.”
“You did? Were they masked?”
“Not after they deposited the young lady into an official car,” Mohamed said with a smile, “then they removed their balaclavas, and I saw them in the moonlight.”
“So who were they?”
Mohamed smiled and sat back as Peter said “Hennie, for him to tell us, he needs certain guarantees that we will not look too closely into certain business transactions he is involved in with near neighbours.”
Looking at both of them, Hennie said “answer this – would they be to the detriment of the innocents in other countries?”
“Not directly – but of course, I cannot speak for those I am conducting the transactions with. Why?”
“Then it’s not me you need to worry about,” Hennie said as he sat back, “but let’s not worry about that now. I’ll cover you – who were they?”
Peter sat back, looking at Mohamed with Hennie as he said “I recognised them both today – still very beautiful after all these years. One was the Marchesa di Cambrello – better know now, of course, thanks to those idiots at La Citadella as Il Pesce Diablo.”
“And the other one?”
Mohamed looked at both men as he said “I regret to say, Peter my friend, it was your wife – Alex.”
The other two men looked at each other before Peter said “are you sure?”
“I am sure?”
“Goeie god - is dit moontlik? Peter, kan jou vrou wees ...” Hennie whispered under his breath, “Is dit moontlik?”
“Ongelukkig dink ek dit is: sy moet muis wees”
Alex was uneasy in her sleep – the events of the last twenty four hours had unsettled her, especially the unexpected arrival of Hennie Botha, and she was worried other people may have recognised her as well.
And Peter had been a bit distant tonight – Something had obviously been bothering him, but he had done his usual job of putting on a face and saying nothing. There was more going on however – the string of coincidences, from meeting Francesca in New York to Andrea today. Why on earth had he sprung this trip on her anyway?
She had joked earlier about there been no such thing as coincidence, but this was getting beyond a joke – not only Hennie, but faces and names she knew from the intelligence world. Commander Cornwall of British Intelligence, Captain Ball of US Intelligence, and others – all in the same room?
There was one good sign – they were all women, which to Alex was an indicator of one thing. Marianne had tried to hide it, but she and John were obviously involved with something else…
She had heard them mentioned in briefings. The Sisters of Maisha, the liberators of Mogola and Mazengwe, the shadow…
She suddenly sat up as something occurred to her, and then she saw the message.
“Breakfast, seven tomorrow, we need to talk. Marianne.”
She looked at Peter, and then tried to go back to sleep…
As Alex walked into the hotel lobby from the elevator, wearing a short sleeved blouse and jeans, she saw Marianne waiting for her in a khaki dress, a wide brown leather belt round her waist.
“Where’s Peter,” she said as she kissed her friend on the cheek.
“He’s got an early morning telephone to take, so you get me for an hour or so on my own – and that’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is – and for that reason, we’re going for a little walk,” Marianne said as she took Alex by the arm and walked her out of the hotel, along the street and into a small café. The woman at the front looked over and nodded, as Marianne led Alex into a back room.
“A private morning coffee? I have to say, Marianne, that…” She stopped as she saw the other two women in the room, the small red-brown haired woman feeding her paper, and the tall, proud South African.
“Your Majesty,” Alex said as she bowed, “what are…”
“Welcome Alex,” the smaller woman said, “and thank you for bringing her here Ariadne.”
“I serve the Heart and the Strength,” Marianne said as she indicated a chair at the table, Alex sitting as the African woman poured the coffee.
“The… Marianne, are you one of the sisters?”
“We all are – do you know who I am?”
“Charlotte Gordon Cambrello van der Byl, daughter of the Marchesa, but…”
“In the Sisterhood, I am Little Mother, and this is Leader. Alex, we have an offer to make to you…”
“Hey,” Erica said as she saw Poppy come into the restaurant, “so are you ready for the day?”
“I think so – Mom is having breakfast with the board today, yours?”
“She’ll be down in a little while,” she said as they walked over to the buffet, joining Laura and Miley there. “How did you both sleep last night?”
“Like a log,” Laura said as Miley giggled, “So when does everyone else come down?”
“Oh they’ll come in drips and drabs,” Poppy said, “listen – we wanted to ask both of you if you wanted to be included in our re-focused group.”
“Re-focused as in…”
“A bit more grown up – and I think we could use the guidance from both of you as well,” Erica said, Poppy nodding in agreement.
“So who else is in from our side of the ocean,” Mylie asked quietly.
“Well, us for starters.”
Laura smiled as she heard the Irish brogue and turned to see Orion with them, Katy standing with her. “Well,” she said, “when you put it that way…”
“They’re here,” Rhenia said as she saw Mary and David coming into the restaurant. She was wearing a grey jacket and skirt with a cream top, while Maddie was in a dark trouser suit and white blouse, and Missy in a grey dress.
“They’re here,” Mary said as she looked at the table, her father nodding as they walked over. “Pops, if I’m right, just take a moment and breathe, all right?”
“Okay – let’s find out,” Dave said quietly as they walked over, Maddie standing and smiling as she said “Hey – come and sit, have some coffee, and we’ll get some pastries brought over.”
“Thanks,” Mary said as she sat and crossed her legs, “so what have we done to deserve the invitation, Missy?”
“Can’t we buy breakfast for two of my favourite people,” Missy said with a smile.
“We’re in trouble,” Mary laughed as the coffee was poured.
Dave shook his head as he said “I still remember when you bought me coffee with Juliette at the Hilton,” Dave said as he took a sip from his cup, “are we in the same situation here?”
“Not quite,” Maddie said with a smile, “although it does concern your girls again – in this case Allyson and Tracy.”
“Oh lord,” Dave said quietly, “look, are you telling me they are going to do what Mary and Suzie do?”
“Not quite,” Missy said, “but I do think one day they may. They’re too young for that at the moment however…”
“What we do want you to consider,” Maddie said, “is having them sign to Rising Stars with Kathy and me. That way, they can do some work and earn some money for college funds, but under much tighter controls than the other two.”
“So no catwalk, no long shoots, but more age appropriate ads and catalogue shoots?”
“Got it in one, Mary. We do nothing to disrupt their schooling like we do with Suzie, but no Fashion Week trips at this stage. Although, on a side issue, I do want to talk to you about January – Alice has enquired about whether Suzie can fly over to NY to do her show, alongside Katy, Orion and Poppy…”
Mary looked at her father, and said quietly “promise me the boys are out of this.”
“With all due respect, Dave, the boys are out of this…”
“Hey – mind if we join you?”
“Not at all,” Jan said as Tom and Gale sat with her and Adam, “where’s Allen?”
“Natalya offered to watch him while we got some breakfast,” Tom said as he looked at the menu, “and we wanted to offer our congratulations to both of you anyway. Any word on a date yet?”
“Not yet – we weren’t the only ones to announce their engagement over the last few days,” Adam said with a smile, “and besides, negotiations have still to be opened between Katherine and my mother as to who gets to take charge.”
“Take my advice, leave them to it,” Gale said with a smile as the waiter took their orders.
“So – what’s the big mystery around your trip to Omaha – or is that plunging in too quickly,” Jan said as more coffee was poured.
“We’re – not quite sure,” Tom said before he took a drink from his cup. “There was a set of deeds in the box for a second property.”
“A second property? You mean your grandmother didn’t just leave you the ranch,” Jan said as she looked at Gale.