The Women in White – Part 3









“So, Miss Kelly again first thing tomorrow?”


“Yup,” Jess said as she sipped her drink, “the joys of learning return.  So when do you move to your new place?”


“Two weeks time – I’m going to miss Mary’s place, but it will be good to be in my own room again.”


“So did Ama like the present?”


“I did,” Ama said as she joined Poppy, Erica and Jess.  “It was very thoughtful of you to get me the book of designs.”


“Well, it made sense – I hope you will enjoy reading it.”


“Oh it has already given me ideas for a few weeks time?”


“Why, what’s happening in a few weeks time?”


“It is my turn to have – is it a Sweet Sixteen?”


“Oh yes – and your theme?”


“To be announced,” Ama said with a smile.




“So it was nice Judith?”


“Yes – ponies on snow...”


“Having fun, Katherine?”


"She's been trying to tell me about Russia." Katherine spoke as Annie sat down next to her. "From Judith's perspective it was all about snow, pretty lights, and ponies."

"That's what she told me as well..."

"Mama," Judith held her arms out for Annie to hold her.


“There we go,” Annie said as she lifted her out of the seat and sat her on her knee, Judith putting her head on Annie’s bump.  "She also had fun modelling though, and you wait until you see some of the pictures Katherine."




"Yes, little one here steals the scene in almost every one that she's in." Annie chuckled. "Anna said she'd add magic to the shoot and she did."

"Well I may be biased,” Katherine said, “but I still think our Katy at 18 months was the prettiest child I ever saw."

"Oh every Grandmother says that...I just wish my Mom was still alive to meet her grandchildren."

"I know," Katherine patted her hand, "it's days like this that really remind you how important families are."


“Very much so,” Carina said as she joined them.  “So is my little angel behaving herself?”


“Of course she is,” Annie said, “we need to play every night this week before you go back, don’t we?”


“Yes, play,” Judith said with a definite nod of the head.




As the taxi pulled up, the woman looked out of the car.


“Dis is the place lady.”


“Of course,” she said as she handed him a note and stepped out.  She was wearing a long dark coat, dark hose and black heeled shoes, but as she drew her coat around herself she looked round, as if she was unsure of what she should do next.


Eventually, she walked up the stairs, looking at the ramp on one side before she rang the doorbell.  She looked round, wondering what the noise was before the door was opened and Sandy looked at her.


“Oh hi – can I help you?”


"Hello... I'm sorry to disturb you, but I was told at his rectory that I might find Alex Richmond here?" the tall, but older, blonde woman asked a little hesitantly.

"He is," Sandy spoke, "I can call him though?"

"Well I can tell you are having a party, I won't disturb him...Can you just tell him an old friend is in town and I'll contact him later."

"Well if you are an old friend of my uncle, then please, come in."

The woman looked in and said “but I'm not dressed...”

"You look fine..."

Suddenly behind her Sandy heard a glass fall to the floor, and the one word...  “Glenda!"


“Uncle Alex – is there something wrong.”


She looked at the tall man, the grey in his hair, the dog collar round his neck, before she said “Hello Alex – I hope I’m not disturbing something?”


“Of course not – I did a baptism of a friend’s daughter today, and we’re having a small celebration.  Please – come in.”


As she came in, Sandy closed the door and Glenda removed her coat, revealing the black silk blouse and knee length skirt.


“I was so sorry to hear about Rusty,” Alex said as he took her hands, “how are you?”


“Coping – but you have guests...”


“Oh nonsense,” Sandy said as she hung Glenda’s coat up, “come and join us.”


“Well, if you insist...”




“You’ve done a wonderful job as usual Nessa,” Carina said as they stood, watching Judith as she played with April.


"So what is first on your plate after you return to New Haven Carina?"

"A paper to write on the role of the minor German states in the Seven Years War."

"That sounds hard." Nessa sipped her drink.

"Not really, Pops and Ingy brought me back several books on the subject from Munich, and I think I have an angle."

"You really work hard don't you? I'm amazed that you juggle all your studies with working as a model, and being a Mom as well."

"Well it helps having Annie, Mom, Pops, Ingy, Judy, David, etc, as a support team."

"I guess that's true. How are Judy's rehearsals going?"

"I went to one, personally I can't understand early music at all, but she has a passion for it."

"Is that why she isn't here?"

"Yes, straight after mass she had to go to a rehearsal."

"My brother has got us tickets for the performance."

"Annie has for she and I, but I have a feeling I'm not going to enjoy it nearly as much as I did Handel." Carina sipped her drink and looked round. "Who is that with Father Alex by the way?"

Nessa looked across the room and mouthed, "No it can't be?"




“Excuse me Carina,” Nessa said as she walked across the room, listening to Alex as he said “yes, they are my great niece and great...  Nessa, look who has called to see me?”


“Glenda?  My goodness, how many years has it been?”


“More than I care to think about – you look incredible Nessa.”


“I heard about Rusty – his grandson attended a party we went to on New Year’s Eve.  It must have been hard.”


“It was, but as I was telling Alex, I felt i had to get out again, and part of that was visiting old friends.  I seem to have stumbled into a party though.”


“Well, as Alex probably told you, a friend’s daughter was baptized today, so we’re having a celebration.  You’ve met my daughter Sandy?”


“She was kind enough to insist I stay – my goodness, is that Juliette Huntingdown?”


“Indeed – she and Sandy are very good friends.  Come – let Alex and I introduce you to a few friends...”




“Uh oh,” Nikki said, “here comes trouble.”


“Hello Miss Nightingale,” Ama said, “I’m so glad you could come today.”


“Well thank you for asking me,” Sarah said.  "I hate to break the spirit of the event girls, but how has all your reading for English Lit gone?"

"Officially or unofficially Miss?"

"Unofficially Jeannie, today I'm just Sarah, tomorrow I'm your teacher."

"Well in my case,” Jeannie said, “pretty darn well if I say so myself, and it helped having Winston home for a couple of days to study with."

"I've been hauling books round on my go-sees," Doc replied, "I'd learned from watching Jeans you get a lot of time waiting around in which to study."

"What about you Ama?" Sarah asked the girl of the hour.

"I enjoyed it, so many of Shakespeare's themes are eternal problems and situations."

"Pepsi and me found that out as well," Becca nodded, "my only objection is that studying them takes a lot of fun out of the comedies."

"That's true," Nikki spoke up, "I watched the version of a Midsummers Nights Dream with James Cagney in, and I spent all my time analyzing it rather then laughing along."

"Well it does sound like you've all done the work," Sarah smiled, "Kudos, but just remember that you are supposed to enjoy the plays as well, not just see them as text to pull apart."


“Oh I do enjoy it – sort of,” Doc said. 



"So Harriet have you come back from England with a strategy for teaching Miss Carlton over there?" Wilhelmina asked.

"Well maybe not a strategy,” Harriet said, “but a few ideas on work I can set her."

"That sounds interesting, do you care to share?"

"It's pretty obvious I'm not going to stretch her, and on some things she already probably knows more than I do, but I thought that if I get her to help me by tutoring and working with some of the girls who find it hard, then just maybe she will get something out of the class?"

"Mmmm that does sound like an idea, and you don't have to be overly creative thinking up things just for her to do."

"Well I still want to try and teach her a few things, but just hopefully she'll not go insane with boredom while I teach normally to the others."

"Were you just telling Wilhelmina your ideas for teaching Anna?" Grace circulated towards them.

"She was, and I think they might work."

"Harriet hopes they will anyway Wilhelmina."

"Well Anna is a very kind-hearted girl, I think she will enjoy helping."

"Thank you for your approval Wilhelmina." Harriet smiled.




“So you stepped into Alex’s shoes in running the Richmond Trust, Nessa?”


“Well, going into the church meant I had to – but I never regretted it,” Nessa said as she walked with Glenda.  “So how long will you be in town for?”


“I’m not sure – maybe a few weeks.  Why?”


“Will you join us at the ball in two weeks?  As our guest?”


“Well, so long as Alex does not mind...  So Sandy is your daughter?”


“Indeed – the young man and girl over there are my grandchildren, Sands and George?”


“And their father?”


“No – they divorced some years ago.  And besides, Sandy’s partner is standing with her.”


“Her partner?”  Glenda looked at Heather as they stood talking to Caroline and Karen.  “I see – and they are happy?”


“They are, and so am I,” Nessa said.


“Here,” Alex said as he gave Glenda another drink, “I hope Nessa hasn’t been boring you?”


“No – she was telling me of the family.  Was Sandy a Deb?”


“Deb of her year,” Alex said, “and a remarkable young woman in many ways.”


“So I see – did she...”


“Oh no – the Miss America pageant never interested her.  She modelled for a while, but her heart was never really in it, then she started studying Interior Design and found her true vocation."

"She did Vanessa? Well good for her." Glenda smiled.

"Yes her practice is very successful."

"And her...partner?"

"Heather is a lady of many talents," Alex smiled, "she was hired to be the children's nanny, but not many nannies come with a high honours degree from Yale.  She is housekeeper, nanny, personal assistant, and collaborator all in one package."

"Well she sounds very did either of you guess Sandy was a lesbian before?"

"No, and I was horrified when I found out," Vanessa answered, "but since then I've learned a lot of tolerance and patience. My daughter is sublimely happy and that is all that is important."

"Amen," Alex nodded.

"So what of yours and Rusty's family Glenda?"

"Four children, one boy, three girls, eleven grandchildren, and my first great grandchild should be born in April."

"Well congratulations." Nessa spoke sincerely.


“We met one of your grandsons at the party – Todd?”


“Oh yes,” Glenda said as she smiled at Nessa.  “What was he doing there?”


“He was a guest – our host invited a number of students from West Point to come, through mutual friends.”






“So who is the tall blonde with Nessa and Alex,” Shirley said as she joined Sandy and Heather.


“That,” Sandy said, “is Glenda Verducci.  Apparently she’s an old friend of Alex.”


“That might be one way of putting it,” Shirley said.


“Oh – what do you know that we don’t,” Sandy said.


“Well, from what Nessa told me at New Year,” Shirley said quietly, “you are looking at the person who is to Alex what Klaus is to you, Ju.”


Sandy looked at Shirley, then at her uncle as she whispered “Oh boy – that explains the look of shock on his face when he saw her.”



Sipping her drink, Nessa said quietly "so what did Rusty die of if I'm not being rude?"

"He had a neurological complaint,” Glenda said, “but it was a blood clot rushing to his heart that killed him."

"Oh,” Nessa said, “that I'm sorry about."

"Well an awful lot of NFL players it has turned out have had long histories of complaints caused by concussions and head trauma."

"And more than a few who only played either in high school or college as well." Alex nodded gravely. "Touch wood I've been very lucky."

"Did he leave you comfortable?" Nessa asked.

"Oh yes, we own a chain of sportswear shops in the Greater Chicago area, Rusty didn't make the fortune players make today, but he invested wisely, and my son is now in charge and business is good."


“So do you know the van Roon's up there?”


“I meet Augie and Tracey at functions – they did mention they had seen you from time to time.  Something about Saints and Sinners?”


“Our social group,” Alex said, “you see many of them today.”


“They are all this young?”


“No – but Ama is a student at St Angela’s, so many here are their friends and families.”




“Hey – good party.”


“Thank you, Nick,” Ama said with a smile, “it means a lot to me that you and your family could be here.”


“Listen – you want to go somewhere?”


“What for,” Ama said as they went into the corridor.


“I wanted to give you a special present,” Nick said, before he gently kissed Ama.


“That – was a very nice present,” Ama said as she looked at him.  “Perhaps another?”


“Why not,” Nick said as they kissed again.


“Ah – sorry,” Caroline said as she came into the corridor.  “Nick, your parents are looking for you.”


“Of course,” Nick said as he went in, Ama looking after him.


“You all right?”


“Yes Mom, I am,” Ama said with a smile as she went back in.


1.45 pm

Jack Linklater’s Studio


“So who is the photographer today,” Mary said as she sat in the chair next to Trina.


“Jack Linklater?  He’s one of the main people Complete Style uses for shoots like these.  I hear he’s great fun.”


“He is,” Daphne said as she worked on Charly’s hair, “a real laugh, with a real sense of mischief, so don’t let anything he says get to you.”


“Hey everyone,” Fi said as she sat down and removed her glasses.  “Ready for some fun?”


“So long as it is fun,” Angel said as she came in as well.  “So who’s this?”


“Mary Clarke, meet Angel Fitzstuart and Fi Treharran,” Trina said.  “Mary hails from San Francisco, like me, and is the missing piece of the New Faces shoot for today.  Are your mums here?”


“They’re talking outside,” Angel said.  “Abby called to say she’s on her way as well – they went to a baptism this morning.”


“Come on girls,” Luke said as he looked in the door.  “Jack’s setting up, and he’s in one of his moods.”


“Oh wonderful,” Abby said as she ran in and sat down, “one of those days.”


“How was the ceremony,” Angel asked.


“Wonderful – pity you couldn’t make it Angel.”


“I know, but Mum and I needed to meet up with Missy this morning.”




"Jack Linklater you give me that cold of yours just before the ball season starts in earnest and I'll never talk to you again." Abby called out as Jack sneezed.

"I know, I know,” the high pitched voice came back, “I should be at home in bed, but I promised to do this."

"Luke I hope you are looking after him properly."

"I'm trying, but you know Jack..."

"Unfortunately I do," Abby giggled.

"So just for once this isn't your hypochondria Jack?" Diana asked as she watched them in the studio.

"No - I caught this off a child model I was photographing, the little darling kept sneezing on me." Jack rolled his eyes, "and for your reference Diana darling I am not a hypochondriac."

"Do I have to show them a picture of all the medicines in your cabinet Jack?" Luke looked up from changing a camera lens.

"I just like to be prepared dear boy, in case I ever get ill..."

"Well you are certainly ill now Jack," Diana felt his brow, "oui, a temperature, you are sick mon ami."

"Well let's not have any silliness then," Jack sighed, "no games today please girls, I want to get finished early."


“We’re going to do Brigitte first,” Luke said, “while I set things up for Fi.”


“The same way we did it last time?”


“Indeed, Lady Treharran,” Luke said as Olivia came in with Mandy.


“Bless my Irish soul – Olivia Savage!”


“Hello Jack – it’s been a long time.”


“I know – but I saw the shots Luke took of you, and you were both amazing.  She is to come – right now, Brigitte darling, are you ready?”


“You called?”


Jack turned and smiled as Brigitte came out, wearing a short fox fur jacket, a knee length red leather skirt and high heels.


“Ah good – let’s do this,  Luke darling?”


Mary and Trina watched from the side as Luke handed Jack the camera, and then showed Brigitte how she wanted her to stand.


"Is he gay?" Mary asked Trina in a whisper.

"You can't tell?"

"Well yes,” May whispered, “but I just wanted to confirm it."

"Mary," Trina shook her head, "we both come from San Francisco, surely you know a lot of gay people? I know i do."

"Not really, our part of town most gays avoid, the men round my neighborhood are sort of old fashioned."

"Well let me put your mind at rest, yes Jack is gay, Luke is his boyfriend, and no, it’s not a secret." 


“Still, he knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he?”


“He does,” Abby said, “part of today is so that you can watch and see how he stages his shoots, learn what he likes and does not like.”


“And away we go,” Jack said as he started to take the pictures.


3 pm


"Mary can you stretch your neck please, I want to see a nice long line."

"I'm trying Jack," Mary said as she posed.

"Here try this," Abby walked over and tilted the San Franciscan's chin slightly higher.

"That's a lot better." Jack called out and started snapping pictures..."and I think we are done Mary."

"Thank you for posing me as he wanted," Mary smiled at Abby as she emerged from under the lights. "I still have so much to learn about this."

"Well we all learn as we go along," Abby passed a bottle of water. "Jack is sort of hung up on necks, so always remember when you are sitting for him that you need to do things slightly differently."

"Got it." Mary stored the memory.

"Now Trina here," Abby observed as the new model was brought out, "her problem is going to be her eyes."

"Why? She has great eyes."

"But Jack likes to see a certain fire in them, like you show, Trina's going to have to give him some emotion in her eyes else he will not be happy."


“How do we get that going?”


“Watch,” Abby said as she looked at Trina, and then started singing the Notre Dame Fight song.


“Those are fighting words, Countess de Ros,” Trina said, glaring at her as Jack said “Perfect – keep that look, and hold that pose...”


4 pm


"So are everyones dresses made for the season?" Charly asked.

"Providing I don't get asked to many more events, then yes." Abby looked up from putting on a new pair of boots, "what about all of you?"

"I'm getting there," Angel sat down, "I still have some fittings for my Vienna dress to fit in."

"Mine was delivered safely to home just before I left." Fiona removed her earrings and changed them.

"I so envy all of you having fancy dresses, and somewhere to wear them to." Mary spoke from a corner.

"Well you are going to need something for my ball back home Mary." Trina spoke.


"You are coming I trust?"

"Me?  Me, go to a big fancy debutante ball, and have to tell people who think they recognise me, that yeah I'm the maid who made up your beds?"

"Well you are my friend, they'll just have to accept you."

"Uhh Uhh Miss Culver, modelling I can just about do, a fancy deb ball...NO WAY!"


“Mary,” Trina said as she looked at the young woman, “you do not say you made up their beds, you say they saw you in a fashion shoot.  So you are coming, as my guest, to sit at my table.  All right?”


“I really don’t know, Miss...”


“And it’s Trina, Mary.”


“I really don’t know Trina...”


“We’ll discuss this later,” Trina said as the door opened.


"Okay he wants to do the group shots now," Luke came into the room, clapping his hands, "you have less than ten minutes ladies."

"Slavedriver," Fiona poked her tongue out, then put on her glasses to inspect the recent work of the makeup lady. "Wow I look amazing.”

"Abby get those boots on darling..."

"I'm trying to Luke, but the zipper keeps sticking."

"I'll give you a hand," Charly knelt down.

"Mary darling, you look perfect, but for one thing...get your hair out of the rollers please."

"Oh God...SORRY!" Mary ran to one of the hairdressing stations.


Luke smiled – the enthusiasm was infectious, and there had been no major problems...



“That’s it girls, plenty of laughter and smiles,” Jack said as Diana and Olivia watched from the sidelines.


“It’s amazing how naturally Fi is fitting in,” Olivia said with a smile.


“Yet another occasion when Mary was right, and I was wrong.”


“Well, well – how long have you been here,” Olivia said as she kept looking at the group.


"Well Missy darling, what do you think of your fresh hatchlings?" Diana kissed the agent.

"I've been watching from back there, and to be honest they aren't too bad for a group of novices...well of course Abby isn't..."

"I know, but I get what you are getting at, she and Angel have been helping Luke and Jack work with the others."

"I saw Abby shooting some pictures herself...she really is keen on being behind the lens as well as in front of it."

"Definitely,” Diana said, “and I think it's wonderful."

"And your family, Diana?"

"Believe it or not approve of her doing a photography degree as well if she can."

"Well photographers certainly make more interesting dinner party conversation then mathematicians do." Olivia joined the chat.

"Not all scientists are dull Olivia Cherie. Pussy and Frieda are both physicists but they still are tres amusing guests."

"She has a point there." Missy smiled.


“There are exceptions to every rule – so the final tea party is on Tuesday?”


“Hosted by the Rochermann twins, correct,” Diana said as Jack called out “and we are done.  Good job everyone.”


As the room clapped, the young models went to change as Jack and Luke came over.




“Anna is going to be very happy – two great shoots in a week,” Luke said.


“You heard about the St Petersburg shoot?”


“The rumours yes,” Luke said, “amazing is the least emotive word.”


“I will have to ask Juliette to show me them,” Diana said as Mary came out.


“Right,” Missy said, “I need to run this young lady to the airport.  See you during the week, Diana, Olivia.”


“Thank you Missy,” Mary said, taken aback as Luke kissed her on both cheeks and whispered into her ear, and then blushing as she left.


“And what did you say to her Luke?”


“That I looked forward to working with her again,” Luke said as Diana heard her cell phone ring.


“Diana de Ros speaking...”


As Diana walked to the side, Fi came out and stood with her mother.


“What’s happened,” she said as Diana walked over.


"Alright Wilhelmina I'll be there shortly."

"Who was that Diana?"

"The headmistress of St Angela's, I'm chair of the Board of Trustees you know? Anyway she just went by the school gates, and the railings have been repainted in cardinal red before school opens again tomorrow."

"They've been WHAT?" Abigail called out as she walked out, "those bitches, they really are asking for it!"

"Who is asking for what?" Olivia looked bemused.

"That shade of red is the colour for Sacred Heart, St Angela's great rival school," Diana looked pained, "it's a prank."

"Oh dear."

"Olivia darling can you make sure Abby gets home safely?"

"Of course I can."

"Merci beaucoup," Diana kissed her friend and ran for the door.


“Luke, can you hail a cab for us?”


“Leave it with me,” Luke said as he slipped out, while Abby walked over to the window.

"Letty?  Round up some of the girls and meet me at my place."  Abby whispered into her phone, "and no I'll tell you all about it when you all arrive, just let us say the Nuns are cruising for a bruising shall we?”




“Coming,” she said with a smile as she put her phone away, and hoisted her bag onto her shoulder.



5.30 pm

St Angela’s


Grace and Kate Hardisty stood next to Wilhelmina, looking at the deep red painted metal as the street lights shone down on them.


“How did they manage to do it without anyone noticing,” Grace said as she tilted her head to one side.


“It’s New York Grace,” Kate said, “you could streak naked down the streets singing the Hallelujah Chorus and nobody would turn and look.  Last spring, the gates were painted in the colours of Anselma.  But they were the gates...”


“And these are the railings,” Wilhelmina said as Diana pulled up.  Getting out, she walked up and looked up and down the railings, before she said “oh dear – does this mean this year is not going to be a quiet one?”


“Not if we can nip this in the bud,” Wilhelmina said as she shook her head.  “Grace, we will need to lay down the law tomorrow to the girls.  I have no wish for anarchy to break out before the Vanderbilt cup meeting.”


“I’ll do my best,” Grace said quietly.


“I’ll set up a teleconference tomorrow as well – and we’d better make sure Cordelia is safe for the duration.”


“A wonderful way to start the New Year,” Kate said with a sigh.


“At least we have one advantage,” Wilhelmina said, “very few of the girls will have seen this yet.  The one drawback is that they will all see it tomorrow.”


“Worry about it tomorrow – we can’t do anything about it tonight anyway.”


6 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“Cardinal Red?  They’ve painted the railings their colours?”


“That’s what Mom said,” Abby replied as she passed round some snacks, “it looks as if they want a fight.”


"Look we ignored all their provocations last term," Bess Stafford looked round the room, "we tried to at least keep the peace."

"It's true," Letty nodded, "even when they flour bombed some of our runners at the cross country meet."

"And when they sabotaged our bus after we beat them at field hockey by putting sugar in the tank." Sherry Piper noted.

"I know,” Annabelle Petrie said, “but we did sort of promise the Tennant that this year there would be NO major incidents."

"Well we haven't started it, but painting the railings in their damn red is too much." Abby looked serious. "They need reminding we are the superior school."

"It's now a matter of honor." Carey Ashburton spoke up.


“On the other hand,” Rachel Merriman said, “you cannot be seen to be part of it Abby.  Not when you’re representing all of us and the school at the moment.”


“Doesn’t mean I can’t make a few suggestions,” Abby said with a smile. 


"So we swipe their mascot?"

"It's been done, Sherry - and they'd just take Cordelia."

"Paint their railings?"

"And stoop to their damn level?"

"It was just a thought."

"No we need something original, and TOTALLY brilliant."


Abby was sitting thinking, and then a smile crossed her face.


“Oh I know that look,” Letty said, “what are you thinking Ms de Ros?”


“We’re going to need twenty four hours,” Abby said, “let them think they’ve won.  In the meantime, Rachel, can you get ahold of something for me?”


“Possibly – what?”


“Epoxy resin...”


8 pm

The Village


“How are you feeling now,” Dominique said as Ama came out of the bedroom.


“Tired and happy,” the young girl said as she sat down, “did Granddad get back to the hotel?”


“He did, but we’ll meet up with him tomorrow night,” Dom said as Annie brought in the hot drinks.  “Did you open your presents and gifts?”


“I did – I will make sure to send thank you messages to those I do not see personally,” Ama said with a smile as she took a mug.


“There’s a wrapped parcel in there, by the way – did you miss it out,” Annie said as she put her mug down.


“There is?” 


“Oh of course – Juliette left it this morning and I forgot all about it,” Dominique said as she went to the kitchen and brought it through, handing it to Ama and watching as she opened it.


“Oh my,” Ama said as she held up the picture, “a picture of Kazan Cathedral.  It is beautiful.”


“They must have got it in the city when I wasn’t looking.”


“It is a fine gift,” Ama said with a smile.


“Well, finish your drink, and then I think we all need an early night.  Back to school tomorrow.”



8.30 pm

W 68th Street


“You have got to admit, Rowena, this is the worst possible time for this to flare up again.”


"Wilhelmina I share your concern," Miss Tennant's counterpart at Sacred Heart spoke on the phone, "but this is Sunday night, what do you expect me to do about it?"

"At least make a real effort to find out who the culprits were and punish them. My girls are still angry about how they were punished after the basketball riot, whilst your girls walked away scot free."

"Well that was your decision to punish them like that Wilhelmina..."

"And I at least expected you to do the same," Miss Tennant interrupted.

"What can I say, I was under a lot of pressure from our alumnae."

"Well mixing metaphors unashamedly, this to my girls will be like a red rag to a bull, and a declaration of war."


“Wilhelmina, I trust you will be as firm as you always are.”


“You know I will be Rowena – but the head girls this year are different again from last year.  I and my team will do all I can – but I think you should be prepared.”


“I understand – we will talk again tomorrow Wilhelmina.”


As she ended the call, Wilhelmina let out a gasp of exasperation and sat back.


“We’re going to have trouble, aren’t we?”


“How bad can it get Kate?”


The two of them looked at Grace, before Wilhelmina said “Let me tell you about the basketball game...”




9 pm Pacific Time

Oakland Hills, San Francisco


“Hey – anyone there?”




Mary smiled as her brothers and sisters ran out, embracing and kissing each of them as they did so.


“Hey – school tomorrow.  Why are you still up?”


“We wanted to make sure you got home,” they said as her dad appeared in the doorway.


“All right – if you all get to your beds, I’ll come and see each of you.”


“Welcome home,” her dad said as he hugged her.


“It’s good to be home,” Mary said with a smile, “but I am beat.”


“Well, go see them, and then come back in.  I’ll make a hot drink and you can tell me all about it.”


“Sounds good – let me put the case in my room, and take my shoes off, and I’ll do that,” Mary said as she walked into her room, sitting down and smiling as she kicked her shoes off and looked round.


“It is good to be home,” she said with a smile, before she opened her bag and took the gifts out, heading to the first bedroom.



9. 30 pm

St Angela’s


Jo walked slowly up and down the railings, shaking her head as she looked at the fresh red paint.


"Well Joanne?" Miss Tennant asked, "can you see why I asked you over this late at night?"

"Oh I can see why." Jo shook her head, "I just can't see what you expect me to do about it. Remember I graduated last summer."

"We know, but we all know that you still have a lot of influence with today’s student body leaders..."

"They are going to find this pretty hard to ignore."

"Which is why we have asked you to use your voice to nip in the bud any plots to gain revenge Jo." Kate spoke.

"Really I'm not sure I want to, from what I hear the girls have turned the other cheek several times already...How do you know I won't just help them?"


“Jo,” Miss Tennant said, “please, the last thing either school needs is open warfare between us.  Is there anything you can do?”


Jo stood in thought for a moment, before she said “there might be something – I’m not sure if it will even be a starter, but I’ll see what I can do.   In all honesty, though?  I think you’d better brace yourself for some sort of return prank.  All I might be able to do is soften it, and maybe get another peace arranged.”


“We can ask no more than that – thank you,” Miss Tennant said as she and Kate walked off.  Jo shook her head and then took her cell phone out.


“Jude?  It’s Jo.  Can you meet up with me tomorrow for coffee?  And invite the twins along as well.  They’ll need to help us with something...”




Monday 11th January

8.30 am

St Angela’s


“What the...”


Jeannie wheeled herself over to where Doc, Ama and Pepsi were standing, and joined them in staring at the newly painted railings.


“Who...  Who did this,” Nikki said as she and Becca joined them.


“In that colour – I’ll give you one guess,” Doc said quietly.


“Wonderful,” Pepsi said, “why do i get the feeling...”


“Inside please girls,” Abby said as she and Letty came up behind them, “no doubt Miss Tennant will have something to see on the subject when we have assembly.”


“I don’t understand,” Jess said as she and Poppy went in with Erica, “why is the colour such a problem.”


“Because of who it represents,” Erica said quietly, “my advice is going to be to keep your heads down – this may just get ugly...”





As the girls filed into the assembly hall, there was only one real topic of conversation – a topic Miss Tennant, Kate and Grace knew as they walked in with the rest of the faculty.


“Good morning ladies,” Miss Tennant said as she stood at the front, “I trust you all return rested from the holiday season?”


“Yes Miss Tennant,” the girls replied, but she could hear the edge in their voice.


“As you came in today,” she said quietly, “you will have noticed the new coat of paint on the railings.  You have my assurance that over the next few days, they will be restored to their previous colour.  I am also painfully aware of the speculation that may be taking place as to who was responsible, and with that in mind, Mrs Brand wishes to address the student body as a whole.”


The girls watched as Grace came forward and took a deep breath.   “We have been in contact with the heads of the other schools, and you should know that not only are they pursuing those who may have been responsible, we have submitted a formal complaint of vandalism to the local police.


“With that in mind, I cannot emphasise strongly enough that if any girl from St Angela’s is found to be doing any form of action that may be called retaliation, they will face strict censure, up to and including suspension from the school.  On a personal level, I can understand why passions are running so high, but you must show self restraint, and allow us and the proper authorities to take care of this.”


“Thank you Mrs Brand,” Miss Tennant said as Grace sat down.  “Now, on to other notices...”




10 am

Central Park


“Hey,” Ally said as she and Nell came into the cafe, “what’s up?”


“Tell you in a minute,” Jo said as she held her coffee in her hand, looking out of the window.


“What do youse gals want?”


“Medium Americano, extra shot.”


“Make that two,” Nell said as they sat down, “so what’s going on?  Not that we don’t mind the distraction – Mom’s doing her nut over the get together tomorrow.”


“I get the feeling it’s something to do with tins of Cardinal Red paint,” Judy said as she sat down.  “Mochacino please.”


“Yeah,” Jo said as the waitress brought over the three coffees, “how did you know?”


“Becca called Bobbi, Bobbi called me and I said you’d already invited me for coffee.  What happened – Tennant bend your ear?”


“She got me down there last night to have a look – someone managed to paint all the railings, inside and out.”


“Oy vey,” Nell said, “no sense of style – sorry, forgot where I was sitting for a moment.”


“Anyway – Tennant wants me to be the peacekeeper, but I’ve also heard from Abby and the others what else has gone down this year.  So I need some support for what I’m going to do – and I can only do it in the next couple of days.”


“And that is?”


“Peace talks – Nell, who might have sponsored this at Sacred Heart?”


“Of the head girls?”  Nell held her coffee for a moment, before she said “probably Marisa Gomez.  Her dad’s in the building trade, would make sense if they needed a supply of the paint.”


“Okay – I need to fix up a meeting between the head girls of both parties.  Can you make the approach on my behalf?”


“Not sure it will be much use, but I can try.  Maybe Holly can be of some use as well?”


“If she can, great.  In the meantime, the three of us need to deal with the other problem.”


“What will the Angels do in revenge?”


“Yeah – and for that, we need to talk to the Stick...”



10.30 am

Complete Style


“Hmm...   Hmmmm...  Hmmmmm...”


"Well?" Juliette fidgeted while Anna looked at the two piles of photos, frequently using her magnifier to look at fine details.  She kept pulling at the leg of her trouser suit, unsure of what her old friend was thinking.


Finally, Anna put the magnifier down and looked at Juliette, her fingers together under her chin.

"They aren't what I really expected..."

"Oh CRAP!"

"They are far better then I even dared hope Ju."

"Oh my Goddess never do that again Anna, you practically gave me a heart attack," Juliette clutched her chest. "So you are happy?"

"I'm more than happy, I'm ecstatic...but you leave me with a real problem as to which ones we use."

"I know,” Juliette said with a laugh, “I said to Dimitri that we'd hard-pressed to make a selection."

"How ever did you all get Judith to co-operate so well?"

"A combination of bribes and the fact that she's a natural show off like us all.  The present of one of the fur parkas also helped."

"Well she looks amazing."

"I know, doesn't she?" Juliette shifted into grandmother mode.

"Alright, I'll get the opinion of the art department on these, and I'll make a final decision which ones we use this afternoon."

"Okay – now, what about the new faces spread for the April edition?"

"Jack is having them sent over this morning, I heard they are rather good."

"So Missy told me last night, and you know her, when she praises something it's usually first rate."


“Before I forget,” Anna said, “on the Russia trip, how did Helen and Marina cope?”


“Very professionally – i was especially impressed with Marina.  She coped extremely well with the demands, and was incredibly organised.”


“So Dimitri told me,” Anna said as she sat back.  “Shirley and you are very lucky to have her on your staff.”


“Is that a hint of jealousy, Anna?”


“No – just an honest comment,” Anna said with a smile.


Juliette looked at Anna closely, and then said “is there something you want to tell me Anna?”


“Nope – apart from incredibly well done,” Anna said with a smile.


“Right – back to the grindstone,” Juliette said as she left Anna’s office, thinking things over as she returned to the editorial floor.


“Messages Juliette,” Janine said as she went past, “and Helen and Marina called to say they were at the airport.”


“Okay then – can you get Merlin, remind her the girls are coming in for their fittings with Alice at 4 and she wants to use the cave?”


“On it, and Eve Stone is coming to join you for lunch at one.”




“Yes Juliette?”


“Close the door a minute,” she said, Janine closing the door and sitting down.


“Have you heard any office gossip about Anna?”


“The big boss?  Nope – why?”


“I’m not sure – but if she was planning something, the PA network would hear something, right?”


“Well, we’d know if an opening was coming up, but there’s been nothing recently.  Alexis would hear before me anyway – she’s closer to that core.  Want me to keep my ears open?”


“No it’s all right.  Let me know when Alice arrives will you,” Juliette said with a smile.


1 pm

The Metropolitan Club


“Thank you,” Alex said as the waiter put their drinks on the table.


"So to what do I owe the pleasure of you taking me out to lunch Alex?" Gus sipped on his sherry while they waited for their table at the Metropolitan Club.

"A man can't invite a friend to lunch at his club?"

"Alex you use this place even less then I do, we are both members more because we are too lazy to resign than anything else."

"Oh I don't know,” Alex said, “there is a certain cachet in being a member of New York's finest club and a working priest."

"Well beyond that,” Gus said, “I take it this is to do with Glenda?"

"How did you know?"

"You didn't think the first thing Nessa would do after the party was phone Paulie?"

"Sorry,” Alex said as he shook his head, “that was rather silly of me wasn't it?"

"A trifle old chap...”  Gus smiled as he said “anyway, so Glenda shows up at the Richmond's yesterday out of the blue?"

"Surprised the hell out of me, I dropped and broke a perfectly good glass of burgundy."

"Careless of you...but anyway what's the problem?"

"The fact that she talks to her grandson on the phone, hears about me, and virtually straight after she arrives home from New Zealand flies from Chicago to here...What does that mean Gus?"


“Alex, I hate to tell you this, but your job does have this rule...”


“I know, I know,” Alex said with a smile, “but why Gus?  Why after all these years?”


“I honestly don’t know – I can talk to Augie if you want, see if he knows anything...”


“No – it may be nothing, it may be loneliness.  Let’s just see what happens...”


Gus looked at his friend, and said “she made her choice Alex.  You can’t turn the clock back, even if you were in a position to do so.”


“Father Richmond?  Your table is ready.”


“Come on,” Gus said, “let’s talk football over lunch.  Who do you fancy in the playoffs?”


“Oh come on you have to ask?”



4 pm

Merlin’s Cave, Complete Style Magazine


“Hey there,” Doc said as Sands and Katy came in, wearing their coats over their school uniforms.  “There’s some cold drinks over there if you want them.”


“Thanks,” Katy said as she took her coat off, smiling as she saw Judith sitting with Ingrid and Carina.


“We’re not late are we,” Abby said as she came in with Angel.


“Nope, just in time,” Jo said as she was pouring a coffee, “and I need a word with you, Ms de Ros, before we start.”


“With me?  What have I done this time,” Abby said as she took her coat off.


“Hopefully, nothing yet,” Jo said as she handed her friend a mug of coffee, and took her into a corner.  “I got a call last night.”


“Who from?”


“Tennant and Haridsty, attorneys at law.”


“They...  Oh lord they got you down to the school, didn’t they?”


Jo nodded, and said “right off the top, what they did was bad – real bad, and I get you’re angry.  I am too.  On the other hand, they don’t want another war breaking out.”


“So why did they call you down?”


“To try and head anything off at the pass.”


"Jo,” Abby whispered, “you know she had no right bringing you into this, you aren't an angel any more..."

"...Once an Angel always an Angel...remember Abs?"

"I know, but this is unfair, we have to do something, we can't let the Nuns think they are walking all over us."


“Hey, I agree, but I also need to know it’s not going to escalate out of control.  I don’t want you, or Letty, or any of the Seniors to get into big trouble.”


“Yeah – Grace gave the warning this morning, and I know Letty headed Doc and the other Sophomores off today and told them not to do anything.”


“But you are planning something, right?”


“Oh yes – but I’m not going to tell you,” Abby said, “and neither I nor Letty will do anything personally.”


“Hey you two,” Carina said as she came over, “Alice is on her way down.  What’s up?”


“Angel blood – tell you later,” Abby said as Juliette and Alice came in.


Noon Pacific Time

Hilton Union Square, San Francisco


"So how was Russia Mary?"

"COLD!" Mary laughed as she changed into her maid’s uniform, "while we can get some bad weather here, it's never quite like that.  I swear I have never seen such snow – but lord, the sights."  Sitting down to lace her shoes, she said “one night we went to the photographer’s home, and we went outside to see the Northern Lights...”

"So were they happy with you?" Maria asked.

"They seemed to be,” Mary said, “and we certainly got pictures that looked good to me at least."

"Mary - the boss wants to see you?" Heletia poked her head round the door.

"She does?"

"Not her, not Brenda...”  Heletia looked worried as she said “HIM...the big boss.   Mr. Hardiman."

The other maids looked at Mary as she stood up.  "When?"

"Right now, so you'd better scuttle girl."

"What's wrong?" Mary thought to herself, she'd done everything right, and Brenda seemed pleased with her work...


“Best go,” Maria said, “then come and find us.”


Nodding, Mary tied her apron and made her way to the manager’s office.  Knocking on the door, she went in and said “Mr Hardiman wants to see me?”

"They are expecting you Mary, go in please," the secretary in the outer office said as she walked over and opened the door.

"I'm going to get fired, I know it," Mary thought as she paused and took a deep breath to calm herself down.  As she entered the office, she saw Brenda standing by the desk, dressed in her black coat dress.


“Ah Mary,” Mr Hardiman said, “come in, take a seat.”


“Thank you Mr Hardiman,” Mary said quietly as she sat down, “I was told you wanted to see me?”


“That’s right,” the general manager said as he looked across the desk.  He was in his early forties, and wore the dark suit, blue shirt and grey tie that formed the uniform for the male senior management staff.  “Miss Kronsky and I have been discussing certain staff issues, and your name came up in conversation.  I understand you took some time off at short notice to do a modelling job in Russia.”


“That’s right Mr Hardiman, but I discussed and cleared it with Miss Kronsky before I agreed to accept the assignment.  I was due some holiday time, but as you say, it was short notice.”


“Yes,” Mr Hardiman said quietly, “and Miss Kronsky has told me that not only have you fitted your modelling work around your job here, you have even worked extra hours to catch up on your contractual requirement.”


“Have there been any complaints about my work, Mr Hardiman?”


“No, in fact we have nothing but complimentary reports on you Mary – but as I say I have been discussing staffing issues with Miss Kronsky, and I want to discuss some changes we need to make with you.”


“Here it comes,” Mary said as she looked at the two managers.


“Mary,” Brenda said, “I’m sorry to say I am going to be letting you go from the housekeeping staff.”


“I understand,” Mary said quietly, “may I at least work my shift, and...”


“Mary,” Mr Hardiman said, “we’re not firing you.”


“You’re...  You’re not firing me?”


“No,” Brenda said, “but it is obvious to me, and to Mr Hardiman, that your current position is not going to allow you the time to work here, do your modelling and have a family life.”


“We’re asking you,” Mr Hardiman said, “to be the face of our hotel to the world.  It means you retain a job here, but we will hire you through Norstar to be in publicity material and advertisements for the hotel, as well as ask you to do some publicity work for us, alongside your other modelling assignments.”


Mary looked at both of them, before she said “Miss Kronsky – forgive me if i am being dumb, but you are not firing me?”


“No Mary,” Brenda said with a smile, “we are still employing you, on a monthly retainer, but to be our representative, not a maid.”


“I want you to take this – we already have mailed a copy to Norstar – and discuss it with your agent and your father,” Mr Hardiman said.  “If you sign, I promise you the fee will be more than adequate.”


Mary flipped through the contract, and then said “Mr Hardiman, is this correct?”


“Discuss it with the people you trust,” Brenda said with a smile.


“Of...  Of course.  May i go now?”


“Go where, Mary?”


“To do my shift – I haven’t signed this yet.”


“Come on,” Brenda said as Mary stood up, “I am buying you a coffee and I am going to explain a few truths to you, Mary Clarke...”


5 pm

Norstar Offices


“Hello Missy,” Maddie said from the window on the screen, “how’s the Big Apple?”


“Cold and white,” Missy said as she looked at the tanned Los Angeles partner, “unlike you.”


“It gets cold here too – so what can I do for you?”


"Madeline can I beg you to fly to San Francisco in the morning and supervise getting Mary's signature on the various contracts?" Missy looked at the screen, "I know this isn't part of the deal between our agencies, but Mary is wavering and she needs someone to hold her hand, and assure her she's not taking a totally unsafe risk."

"I understand Missy,” Maddie said, “and yeah I can fly up first thing, it will give me a chance to talk to some people and then I can fly home in time for dinner."

"I'll be so grateful, Mary is such a nervous kid that this will all blow up in her face."

"It's not a problem really Missy, and I sort of understand where she's coming from, it's not always easy to strike out in a new direction in life."

"No, but she'll not regret it."

"I know, I've seen pictures, I get envy pangs looking at her cheekbones."

"Yeah she does have just what photographers love to photograph close up."

"Well I'll phone and get my flights, and I'll have the contracts fed-exed to you from San Francisco."

"Thank you Madeline, and I owe you one."


“Careful with favours – but you’re welcome,” Maddie said as she ended the call, and pressed the intercom.


“Tracey?   Get me on a flight to San Fran tomorrow first thing, coming back about 5, and call Mary Clarke, let her know I’m coming to help her tomorrow.”


“Got it Boss – you want to see the file you asked for?”


“Yeah – bring it in with the booking info please.”



5 pm

Swannie House, 170 Ohio Street, Buffalo


As Janice walked in, the customers turned and looked at her, some of them nodding in admiration as she stood there.  She was wearing a black fur lined jacket over a white jumper, tight blue jeans and over the knee black leather boots, the four inch heels clicking as she walked to a booth and sat down.


“What will it be,” the waitress said as she walked over to where Jan was sitting.


“Unless she has changed beyond all recognition, a Guinness and a bowl of your best chicken wings, Mae.”


“Peter Welch,” Jan said as she looked at him, “you haven’t changed a bit.”


“Oh yes I have,” the Buffalo FBI agent said as he sat down, and Jan looked at him.  He was about five ten, broad shouldered, and his light brown hair was starting to recede, as he sat down.


“Well, Janice Carter,” he said with a smile, “how many years has it been?”


“Too many,” Jan said with a smile as Mae brought the drinks over.  “Wings will be along in a minute,” she said as she went off.


“So how are you keeping Pete?”


“Oh I can’t complain – my boys are eight and six now.  How old is Katy?”


“Thirteen going on twenty one.”


Peter laughed as he said “so, what brings you up to my neck of the woods?  I thought you were been kept busy down in New York, in every way imaginable.”


“I have no idea what you mean.”


“Oh yes you do – Adam Ball, right?”


“Yeah,” Jan said with a smile, “we’re getting along just fine.”


“So,” Peter said as he sipped his drink, “why are you really here Jan?  Not just to renew old acquaintances surely?”


“No – not quite,” Jan said.  “I presume you know my primary role at the moment?”


“One of the Pussycat Gang task force – I didn’t think there had been any activity in this neck of the woods.”


“Well,” Jan said as Mae brought over the wings, and she picked one up, “that’s not what I’m hearing.”


Peter looked hard at her, and said “what are you hearing?”


“Does the name Victor Sporetti mean anything to you?”


“Local mob head – he’s been hit fairly hard recently is my understanding, but the word was it was a rival family.”


“The word might be wrong,” Jan said.  “We’ve been hearing rumours that it’s not just any gang – it’s a group of females, and they’re claiming they are the Pussycat gang.”


“Moving into Sporetti’s line of work?  I thought they were more about high value armed and violent robbery?”


“True – but any information about Pussycat activity is meant to come through the local offices to us.  We heard of this from our contacts in the NYPD, who were watching Sporetti on a recent visit.”


Peter looked at Jan, and lowered his drink to the table.  “It sounds to me as if there is a leak and a block somewhere – you’re not suggesting it’s at our end?”


“I hope not, and the last thing I want to do is bring IA down on your heads, but I’ve got to ask the question Pete – I just want to do it on the QT and pray, bad as it sounds, the problem is at the PD end.”


“Which is why you asked to meet me?”


“Which is why I asked to meet you,” Jan said.  “I know it sounds like I’m been a total heel...”


“No, I get it.  I’ll do some asking around, see what I can find out, but shouldn’t I tell my supe as well?”


“Not yet – let’s see what you can uncover first, then we’ll talk, and then we can decide on the next steps.  Why don’t you come down next weekend, we can talk then?”


“I’ll need to get clearance from the boss first?”


“Your supervisor?”


“My wife – I’ll give you a call at the office tomorrow.  So, tell me about this Adam...”



6.30 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Well, how did the fitting go,” Klaus said as Juliette led the family back in.


“Good for a first one – Alice has some things to think about, especially for little Judith here.”


“Did you have fun little one,” Klaus said as he picked his granddaughter up.


“Yes,” she said with a smile as Ingy and Cari took their coats off.


“You have a visitor, by the way,” Klaus said as Missy appeared in the door to the drawing room.


“Sorry to call unexpectedly – you got a minute Ju?”


“Is this Norstar business?”


“Yeah – but Cari might want to hear this as well.”


The mother and daughter looked at each other before they followed Missy into the drawing room, Klaus and Ingrid taking Judith to the kitchen.


“What’s up?”


“Mary Clarke – I had a very interesting e-mail from the general manager at her hotel this morning, followed up by a secure communication this afternoon.”


“Oh no,” Carina said, “they haven’t fired her, have they?”


“In a way, yes, and in a way, no.  They want to hire her on a retainer to be the face of the hotel, and do publicity work for them.”


“They do?  How does Mary feel about this?”


“She called me when she found out, and I told her to talk to her dad.  What it will do is free her up for shoots, and ease her onto the road to full time modelling, while keeping the link with the hotel.”


“Sounds ideal – what’s the contract like?”


“Very generous,” Missy said as she handed Juliette a document.  “Not in the league of Abby or Jeannie, but good enough – and as I say, it helps ease her all the way for other things.  You’ll note they’ve built in the freedom to meet other modelling requests as well.”


“Good – very good,” Juliette said with a smile.  “I hope she does sign.”


“I’ve advised her to, but you know Mary – she’ll talk it over with her father first.”


“You’d better let Maddie know as well – she may need to spend some time with Mary as well over the next few weeks.”


“Already on it,” Missy said with a smile.



7 pm Pacific Time

Oakland Hills, San Francisco


“All right you guys,” Mary’s father said as he cleared the plates, “get to your rooms and get your homework done.”


“Yes, Pops,” the kids said as they went off, leaving Mary at the table as her father went into the kitchen, and then came back.


“All right,” he said as he handed her a mug of coffee, “run past me again, slowly, what happened today?”


“It’s like I said Pops – I was getting ready to do my shift, when I was summoned to the General Manager’s office, where Brenda was waiting.  He sat me down, and at first I thought this was it – pink slip and thanks very much.”


“And instead, he made you a job offer?”


“Oh yes,” Mary said as she reached into her bag, and handed the contract to her father.  He flipped through it, and then looked at his oldest daughter.


"The hotel is wanting to pay you what?"

"Two hundred thousand dollars a year,” Mary said as she held her mug, “for the next three years if I agree to become their spokesperson  and appear in all their advertising."

"Whoa Mary,” he father said, “that's a whole lot more then you'd make as a chambermaid."

"I know Pop, but i haven't signed anything just yet, I said I'd talk it over with you first."

"And on top of all that you'd be doing other modeling?"

"Yes, I'd be free to go on shoots and do catwalk shows virtually all the time."

"What did Miss Auerbach think?"

"She thinks it’s a great deal, and Brenda says I'd be an idiot not to do this."

"They have a point.  Seriously, Mary, they have got a point."

"I was thinking Pop,” Mary said, “if it does all work out, I'd be able to save most of it, and put it away to provide college funds for the kids."

"Is that three years guaranteed?"

"Yes Miss Auerbach told me that a couple of times, and she's had a clause inserted that you and the kids would receive it even if I had an accident."

"So how much does she think you can earn on top of that?"

"Well..." Mary took a deep breath, "she says with all the publicity I'll get having pics in the next three editions of Complete Style, then I can look for at least a million dollars this year, and probably double that next."


"So she says Pop, but I'd have to pay taxes on that of course."

"Still,” he said as he sat back, “that sounds like Monopoly money Mary."

"I know, it sorta has me scared too."

"And what happens if it stops just like that?"

"I know, I'll just have to save as much as I can in case.  Missy has asked Maddie Moore, who runs the agency in LA they have links with, to come down and see me tomorrow.  Pops – I’d like you to be there with me.  I want to sign this, I think I can do it, but I want you to be there when I do it."


“When’s she going to get in?”


“I said I’d meet her at the hotel at one.  Please, Pops...”


“Oh don’t worry, I’ll be there.  I want to see my little girl get everything we both dreamed of for her...”


Tuesday 12th January

8 am Local Time

Hong Kong, Cathy Lo’s apartment


“Is it not time you were on your way, Kylie?”


“It is, Cathy,” Kylie said as she slipped her blazer on, and put her straw boater on her head, “I just need to collect my bag and...”


Both Cathy and Kylie turned as they heard the front door open and close, both tensing before they heard Helen say “We have returned.”


“Welcome back,” Cathy said as they went into the hallway, greeting Helen and Marina with kisses.  “How was the trip?”


“Interesting – I presume you received a full report, Honoured Mistress?”


“I did – and we will discuss later.  For now, I need you to refresh yourselves and change, as we have a full day ahead.  Kylie?”


“I have to run darlings – see you tonight,” Kylie said as she picked up her bag and walked out, Marina smiling as she watched her.


“I will prepare some coffee – go and change, and we will talk,” Cathy said as they made their way to their rooms.




“Thank you,” Marina said as she accepted the mug of coffee from Cathy.


“I am very pleased with the way you conducted yourselves and your business during the trip,” Cathy said as she sat back.  “I have a full report from Juliette and Sergei, as well as a glowing thank you from Anna for your work on the shoot.”


“We are pleased that you are pleased,” Helen said quietly, Marina nodding in agreement.


“I am particularly pleased with the way you dealt with the attempted kidnapping,” Cathy said, “it showed quick and decisive thinking.”


“It needs to be noted that both Dominique and Carina played a part in eliminating the threat,” Marina said.


“Indeed – but you both dealt with the disposal of the bodies in an – intriguing manner.  I have to admit, I found it quite amusing.”


“I am glad you gained satisfaction from the reports,” Helen said, allowing herself a smile.  “I should inform you of another fact, Honoured Mistress.”


“And that is?”


“By sheer chance, we met Andre Kannenikov.”


“Your late mother’s dance partner?  I trust it was an amicable meeting?”


“It was,” Helen said with a smile, “but as you are aware of my past, I felt it prudent to inform you.”


“Quite right – but I do not think there is anything to worry about from that angle.  Now, I know you have had a long journey, but we have a full day.  Finish your coffees, and collect your things – the car will be here in ten minutes.”


2 pm Local Time

Huntingdown Silks, Hong Kong


“Thank you, Honoured Father.  I look forward to our meeting at the weekend.”


As she put the telephone down, she said “Marina, arrange a dinner booking for three for Saturday at Pier 10 please, in my name.”


“Of course,” Marina said as she picked up the telephone, while Cathy checked her e-mail.  As she did, an amused expression crossed her face, as she looked across to where Marina was sitting.


She stood up and walked over to the printer, as Marina said “the table is booked for eight.”


“Excellent,” Catherine said as she walked over.  “Now this is most interesting.”


“What is?”


"A mystery.  Why have i received a letter online from Anna at Complete Style asking about you Marina?"

"I have no clue." Marina looked away from her computer and took off her glasses.

"It's almost like she's sounding me out about you as a potential employee."

"She's what?" Marina asked in a disbelieving tone.

"Here read it yourself," Catherine said as she passed her assistant the printout.

"I can see what you mean," Marina pursed her lips, "maybe I've been doing my job too well?"

"It might should be complimented Marina on the fact that she's even considering head-hunting you."

"Well,” Marina said, “Despite this, I owe my loyalty to Madame, and to you Mistress."

"Yes but you know neither of us would stand in your way if you received a great job offer."

"No I'm quite happy staying with all of you."

"Good,” Catherine said with a smile, “but still I thought I needed to tell you."

"Thank you Mistress," Marina stood and bowed, "but this servant is quite content with her currently planned future."


“Good – now, can you get Beijing on the phone for me?  I need to inform them of the quality issues...”



9.30 am

The Richmond Mansion


“Yeah, I know – I’ll be back up on Friday.  How about dinner down by the lake?


“Sounds wonderful Curt, I’ll see you then.  Love you...”


Heather watched as Jo turned her cell phone off, and then turned to look at her.


“A little too much?”


“Just be glad Sands and George weren’t here to make fun of you,” Heather said as she handed Jo a mug of coffee.  “How’s Coach feeling about you?”


“She’s pleased with my placing at the Central event – oh god is that the time?  John’s expecting me at eleven!”


“You’ve got plenty of time,” Heather said, “I’m going down to see Jan so I can drop you off.”


“So what’s the latest on this Buffalo business?”


“Well, from what I can gather from the police reports, there are six of them, and they claim to be us.  They don’t dress like us though – tends to be trousers suits, or when they raided a brothel leather pants and tight jumpers.”


“No sense of taste, as Diana would say.”


“Well, Buffalo isn’t that far from me.  I could...”


“No – your studies are important.  I’m going to drive over to see you on Sunday though – I want to take a trip over myself on Friday and Saturday.”


“Doing some research for Sandy?”


“That’s what I’m telling people anyway.  I’m going to meet with Sporetti to gather more information from him.  At the moment, though, it does look annoyingly like the block is at the FBI office.”


“Based on?”


“The fact I can find full reports on the Buffalo PD database, for one thing.  I’ve mailed them to Jan already.”


“Fair point – right, how long do I have?”


“Fifteen minutes, what do you need?”


“To grab my German text book – be ready then...”


10 am Pacific Time

Oakland Hills, San Francisco


“That’s amazing Mary,” Trina said at the other end of the call, “I think you’ve made it girl.”


“It looks like it,” Mary said as she looked out of the window, “and yet...”


“Mary, you have got to take this by the horns and run with it.  What’s next?”


"So we are going to meet Madeline Moore later, and depending on what she says, sign all the contracts."

"See Mary, I told you that you'd be a model not a maid when you come to my ball." Trina laughed lightly.

"Well nothing is set in stone yet Miss Culver..."



"That's better, well you take your Pop and the kids out to dinner tonight, you can afford it now."

"Yeah, I already asked Pops.  We were thinking trying Olive Garden, we haven't ever been, always looked kinda pricey."

At her end Trina shook her head, reminding herself that to a girl like Mary, even chain restaurants were fancy.

"Well enjoy yourself Mary,” she eventually said, “you'll probably have more fun than I will."

"I thought you were going to some fancy tea party?"

"Mother and I are, but one of the girls hostessing it has had to invite a girl she detests. There has been a bad odour between them both at all parties where they've both been, I just hope tonight passes off peacefully."

"Well I'll cross my fingers for you."

"And I’ll cross them that it all works out today, and that by tonight you are a full-time model."


“See you soon,” Mary said as her dad called out “shower’s free Mary.”


1 pm

The Tavern on the Green


“There she is,” Nessa said as Olivia Verducci walked into the restaurant.  She was wearing a dark grey dress coat with a black belt round her waist, the black fur coat over that and her black shoes clicking on the floor as she walked over.


“Welcome,” Paulie said as the waiter took Olivia’s coat and pulled her seat out for her, “we’re glad you could join us for lunch.”


“Well, my time is my own at the moment,” Olivia said as she looked at her old friends.  Nessa was wearing a white sweater and leather skirt, with a black belt round her waist, while Paulie was wearing a blue silk blouse over a black roll neck sweater and black pants.  Both women were also wearing black ankle boots.  “Can i just say something before we look at what’s on offer?”


“Oh – what?”


“You two look amazing.”


“So do you – but then, you were Miss America 1966.”


“That was a LONG time ago,” Olivia said with a laugh, “but look at us – grandmothers all.”


“True,” Nessa said, “very true.  But I guess you could say i was a late bloomer.  It’s only in the last few months I’ve really felt free to be myself.”


“Oh?  I remember when I first met Alex, you were recovering from something...”


“Well, I’m not ashamed of it Olivia – I had a nervous breakdown, and it took me a long time to recover.”


“Oh god – how long?”


“Fifty years,” Nessa said as she looked at the menu, “but I’m better now.”


“What about you Paulie?”


“Oh I’m great,” Paulie said, “we’re expecting our next grandchild you know.”


“Oh really – Liz is expecting again after all this time?”


“No – this time it’s Frieda, Pussy’s partner.”


“Pussy...  You mean Patricia?”


“I do indeed – she’s due at the end of March.”


“My lord, things really have changed over the years, haven’t they?”


“We just got younger that’s all – I’ll have the crab cakes please?”


“The tuna for me,” Paulie said, “Olivia?”


“Can I have the tuna as well please – and a bottle of Chardonnay?”


“Sounds good,” Nessa said as the waiter nodded and took their menus.


“So how do you keep yourself busy,” Paulie said as she looked at Olivia.  “I know Augie and Tracey saw you and Rudi from time to time at social events.”


“Well, that has tended to be my life since we went back to Chicago,” Olivia said, “I hear you’ve been heavily involved in the social affairs here as well Nessa – isn’t the ball coming up?”


“A week Friday – the arrangements are all in place,” Nessa said with a smile.  “some friends of ours are amongst the young ladies to be presented.”


“Oh really – who?”


“Diana de Ros’s daughter, Abigail,” Nessa said, “the twin daughters of Kelly Rochermann, Angelica Fitzstuart, a few others.  They have the last of their tea parties this afternoon.”


“I’ve seen the pictures of Abby and Angelica in the magazines – Angelica is Mandy Carrow’s daughter, right?”


“That’s right,” Paulie said, “I’m looking forward to it.  Should be a good night.”


“So,” Olivia said as she looked at Nessa, “can I ask how Alex is?”


“I think he’s still in shock at seeing you,” Nessa said as the wine was poured.  “We heard about Rudi from your grandson on New Year’s Eve, and then...”


“And then I turned up out of the blue,” Olivia said as she sipped from her glass.  “I saw the shock on his face.  Honestly, I didn’t mean to intrude or cause a scene...”


“I understand,” Nessa said, “but it has been a long time since he saw you last.  He’s not the man he was then.”


“I know – the Alex I knew was the last person I would have thought to enter the priesthood.  Vietnam really changed him, didn’t it?”


“Yes it did,” Nessa said, “for the better in many ways, for the worst in some.  I took him a long time to come to terms with his experiences there – it still haunts him sometimes, you know.”


“I can imagine...”


10.30 am Pacific Time

Oakland International Airport


As Maddie walked out of the arrival gates, she looked round, wondering how long it would take to get a cab into the city.


“Excuse me.”


Maddie turned to see a dark haired woman standing behind her, wearing a grey long sleeveless cardigan over a white blouse and a grey skirt.


“I’m sorry, but are you Madeline Moore, of Xavier International?”


“I’m afraid you have the advantage of me, Miss?”


“Sorry – I’m Jenny Callendar,” she said as she extended her hand, “I teach Alison Clarke – I believe you know her sister Mary?”


“Yes I do – may I ask how you know me?”


“I Googled you,” Jenny said.  “Alison said when she came into class today that her sister was meeting someone called Madeline Moore, about signing a contract.  I know it’s not my business but...  Could I speak to you for a few minutes?”


Maddie looked at the teacher, and then said “sure – let’s go to the juice bar over there.”


As they walked over, Maddie said “you’ll have to forgive me, Miss Callendar, but why have you come out here to meet me.”


“Because I owe Mary Clarke a huge apology, and I think you’re the one who can help me deliver it.”


“Okay, I’m intrigued – tell me more.”


"Look - I used to think Mary was a lazy, inattentive kid while I taught her Mrs. Moore, it wasn't until recently when I started to teach her siblings that I realised why she'd fall asleep in class, and her homework was so shoddy."

"And why was that Miss Callendar?" Maddie asked the teacher.

"Because by the time she got around to doing her own work, she'd already helped every one of her siblings do their homework, plus she'd cooked dinner for everyone, AND done all the housework."

"She sounds like she worked hard?"

"She was working hard,” Jenny said as she sipped her drink, “but by the time she got round to her own work, Mary had so little time and energy left that to me it seemed she wasn't even trying."

"And let me ask you something Miss Callendar,” Maddie said.  “A friend of mine has a theory that Mary and her father have often gone without food themselves to make sure the kids had enough...what do you think?"

"Oh from talking to people who know the Clarke's, and to her brothers and sisters, I'm sure Mary and her Dad have gone without and gone hungry."

"Everything is for the kids?" Maddie asked.

"Yes, Mary has sacrificed her life to make sure they don't have to work like she has had to. You know, I went back and looked at her grades before her Mom died. Mary was the cleverest kid in her class, she should one day have gone to college, but instead she dropped out of high school as soon as she could, and got a job to help the family."

"Well I'm glad she's finding some success." Maddie tried imagining what Mary had endured in life.

"Yeah we all are, she looks amazing when we’ve seen her, and her younger brothers and sisters are incredibly proud of her.  So you make sure she signs that contract please, and don't tell her I caught you first please to tell you all this.  Her family deserve it – she deserves it."

"I won't...I promise."


Noon Pacific Time

Hilton Union Square, San Francisco


As Mary and her father walked into the lobby, and looked round, Maddie stood up and said “Mary – it’s good to see you again.”


“And you Maddie – this is my father.  Pops, this is Maddie Moore – she works in Los Angeles, and one of the companies she oversees is the Rising Stars Model Agency.”


“A pleasure Mister Clarke,” Maddie said as she extended her hand, looking at them.  Mary was wearing a denim skirt and chocolate brown jumper with fat shoes, while her father wore a blue jacket over a checked shirt and jeans.


For his part, Mary’s father looked at Maddie, in her leather skirt and black blouse, and smiled as he said “it’s a pleasure Mrs Moore.”


“I honestly prefer Maddie.”


“In that case, it’s Dave.”


“Why don’t we go into the bar, order some coffee, and we can talk in there.”


“All right,” Mary said as Maria walked past, smiling as she nodded at her.


As they took a seat, Maddie called over a waiter and ordered three coffees, as Dave looked round.


“Do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever been this side of the hotel,” he said as he looked at Mary.


“I still feel strange sitting here,” Mary said.


“Okay,” Maddie said as she sat forward, looking at Mary, “Missy has briefed me on the offer from the hotel, and also on her upcoming shoots for you.  My first question to you, Mary is simple.


“How do you feel?”


“Honestly?  Scared, Maddie – I mean, this is more money than I have ever seen in my life.”


“I can imagine that, and I know this is a huge step, but believe me – if Juliette and Missy did not think you were ready, they would not have recommended you to sign, or asked me to come down and be with you today.”


“But Mrs Moore...”


“Maddie, please.”


“Maddie, when Miss Auerbach talks of our Mary earning what she has said, you can understand why we are cautious.”


“Oh I understand, Dave, but let me say this.  I know enough about Missy Auerbach, that if she's estimating those figures for Mary's earnings, then in reality you can probably double those figures. Missy underestimates rather than go overboard."

"You must be kiddin' me..."

"Oh no I can assure you of that."



“What’s more, even though Missy and Juliette are on the East Coast, I can promise they will be watching Mary every step of the way, and so will her fellow models.  This group are like a sorority, a sisterhood, and they look out for each other.”


“I hear a friend of Mary’s, Trina, signed as well.”


“That’s right – Juliette told me you’ve been invited to go to a party soon she is attending.”


“What sort of party, Mary?”


“It’s...  It’s a ball Pops, and I haven’t said yes yet.”


Dave Clarke sat back and shook his head.  “Okay – what happens if it all ends?”


“That’s the big unknown in this business,” Maddie said, “but Missy thinks you have a definite future in this business.  And she’s not the only one.  Jack Linklater, Dimitri, Luke, Adam – the photographers who have worked with you all say so as well.  Juliette does too. 


“Look, I won’t lie Mary – there is always that risk in the modelling world, but we can give you the best possible advice on investments, tax, savings – I suspect you know far more about money management than I or many models too, so you may end up teaching them a thing or two.”


“My daughter the teacher,” Dave said with a smile.


“And you have someone to ground you, and a family that you can help support by doing this.”


Nodding, Mary took the contract out of her bag, and laid it on the table, looking at it.  Finally, she looked at her father, who nodded and said “I think it’s time Mary.”


“Yeah...  Yeah, it’s time,” Mary said as she took a pen from Maddie and signed the contracts, before she handed them back to Maddie.  She then witnessed the signature, before she folded the copies.


“Well, it’s too late now Pops,” Mary said as she put her hand on her father’s.


“Yeah, too late now,” her dad said, as they both heard the applause and cheers from behind them.


“What the...”  Mary stood up and turned round, to see Brenda and the housekeeping staff behind her.


“We’re going to miss you,” Brenda said, “but we look forward to seeing you as much as possible.  Here – we want to toast your success.”


“I arranged this when I arrived,” Maddie said as Heletia and Maria put trays of glasses down, and Brenda opened a bottle of champagne.  “It’s only right your friends are here to share this with you.”


5.30 pm

The Rochermann Apartment


Kelly Rochermann walked slowly round her drawing room, smiling as Edith and Katherine made the final preparations to the food.


“I cannot thank you both enough for stepping in,” she said as she smiled at them, “I have enough to worry about without this.”


“It’s our pleasure,” Katherine said with a smile, “besides, it’s the closest we get to the society at this time of year.”


Nodding, Kelly looked round.  “Well, it’s over to the girls now...”



"Nervous?" Nell asked her sister's reflection in the mirror as she fixed her earrings.

"Not overly...”  Ally stood up and brushed down her skirt.  “Why?"

"Oh because of for the first time in years a certain person will be crossing the threshold of this house."

"There is no way McGeorge would be coming if I had my way,” Ally said quietly, “but you know very well you and Mom outvoted me."

"Buffy really isn't that bad..."

"NELL!" Ally turned and glared at her sister.

"Look,” her sister said, “can't you finally bury the hatchet...?"

"I know just where I'd like to bury it." Ally interrupted.

"Look you know very well that Aunt Sukie is one of Moms best friends."

"Well she I do like."

"Well for hers and Moms sake Sis...PLEASE behave."


“All right – i promise I will not start any trouble.  Just tell her to stay out of my way....”



“Well, here we are,” Sukie McGeorge said as she stopped outside the apartment block.  “Before we go in, I need to say something to you Buffy.”




"Buffy McGeorge,” Sukie said as she turned and looked at her daughter, “if you embarrass me here tonight, I will never, ever, forgive you."

"Now Mom would I do that?" Buffy smiled as she finished her makeup in the car mirror.

"You know you damn well you would young lady."

"Well you know what they say,” she said as she put her lipstick away, “all's fair in love, war, and feuding."

"Oh dear GOD!" Sukie rolled her eyes.  "Give me one good reason that I don't just phone Kelly now, make our apologies, then take you home."

"Because like half of New York's upper crust you are dying to know what will happen tonight."

"BUFFY! I swear..."

"Oh I won't start anything, but you remind Rochermann not to either."


“Did you plant that thing in the papers, Buffy?”






“Welcome, all of you,” Kelly said as Diana and Olivia came in with Abigail and Fiona, each wearing a dress and jacket.


“Hey you two,” Ally said as she came out and looked round, “Angel and Mandy are already here – come away through.”


“We can go this way,” Kelly said as she made her way through as well, joining Mandy near the buffet table as Katherine and Edith walked round with trays of sandwiches.


"Did you do all this yourself Kelly?" Diana asked.

"Diana how many years have you known me? Do you really think I can cook this well?"

"Sorry, so it's all catered?"

"Yes, but it's the same people who did Shirley's party, so it will be excellent."

"Yes it will...honestly Cherie you are more nervous then the twins."

"Well wouldn't you be?"

"Oh you mean with Buffy coming?" Diana nodded.


“Surely they can put that behind them – Holly and Carina managed it?”


“I know, and so does Sukie – but Nell’s going to keep an eye on both of them – ah Victoria, welcome.”


“Hello Kelly, Diana,” Victoria Gordon said as she joined them, while Sam joined the growing group of girls.





"Did you see the snippet on Page 5 about tonight Abs?" Brig Karonsky asked as she embraced her cousin.

"Yes I did, as if there wasn't enough tension between them already, the darn gossip columns had to pick it up."

"Pick what up Abigail?" Betsy Silowski asked.

"The whole Buffy versus Ally feud, didn't you read Page 5?"

"Mom has a rule I'm not allowed to look in case I'm in it."

"That sounds a very sensible rule Betsy darling." Mandy drawled. "I should maybe have stressed that to my daughter."

"And denied her reading that piece in The Tatler calling Angel ‘Britain's deb of the year?’" Brig asked with a sparkle in her eyes.

"Don't please darling, I had enough problems buying her a hat recently without her head swelling even more."


She looked at Angel, who was talking with Ally, Fi and Sharon Kennedy, and smiled with quiet pride.


“Hey,” Trina said as she came in, “I’m not late am I?”


“No you got here before Charly – what happened?”


“I was talking to Mary Clarke on the phone,” she said as she looked at Abby, “she got an amazing offer from the hotel she works for, and she signed today to go full time.”


“Fantastic,” Angel said, “I must introduce you to her when we next meet, mum.”


“Juliette showed me the photos from Russia – i look forward to meeting her darling,” Mandy drawled.


They then looked to the door as Charly and Terri Elphberg slipped in, to be greeted by the Rochermann's.


"So Charly, added any more dates to your calendar?" Sam Gordon asked as she sipped her drink and the young princess came over.

"Well, at least one I could do without."


"Yes - Mother and I are to be guests of honour at the American-Ruritanian Society ball next month. Twenty debs of Ruritanian ancestry get presented to us."

"Sounds better then being one of the presentees to me."

"Sam!" Charly rolled her eyes.


"How would you like to be sat up on some dais while poor girls have to...well what we do as debs ourselves?"

"I thought it went with the territory of your being a Royal Highness?"


“Occupational hazard you mean?  I guess so,” Charly said as Nell walked over to where Ally was standing.


“How are you coping?”


“So far, so good,” Ally whispered as she watched Buffy talking to some of the other debutantes.


“How on earth are you going to cope on the night, when we’re waiting in line?  For all we know, she could be next to us?”


“Then I will find a way,” Ally said quietly.



7.30 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“Hello?  Anyone home?”


“Nessa?”  Heather came out from the kitchen, and said “sorry, i was just having some supper.  Come on through if you don’t mind me eating – I’ll get some coffee going.”


“Thanks,” Nessa said as she took her coat off and hung it on the rack.  The two women walked through to the kitchen.


"So where is everyone?" Nessa asked as she sat down next to Heather.

"Well your daughter is having dinner with the Finestrom's and trying to get the contract to decorate their new apartment."

"Okay, and the children?"

"Well they are combining homework with texting their friends. They are both upstairs...I can call them down if you wish?"

"Oh don't bother Heather,” Nessa said, “it was you I really came to see anyway."

"Me Nessa? Why?"

"Because I need a bit of internet snooping done, and I have heard on the grapevine you are the person to see."

"Sure, who do you want me to research,” Heather said as she wiped her mouth.  “Surely not Glenda?"

"Oh no,” Nessa said with a laugh, “whatever happens between her and Alex is their business."

"Are you sure?"


"Alright,” Heather said, “who do you want checked?"

"A man called David McIlroy..."

"A man?" Heather interrupted.

"Yes a man Heather...and can you please take that look off your face. I met him earlier today, he's a vice-president at Amininsco, just arrived from Philadelphia..."

"And he asked you out didn't he?" Heather interrupted again.

"Yes he did," Nessa blushed, "but can you check him out for me?"

"Why? Sounds like you are attracted to him."

"I am,” Nessa said as she accepted a mug of coffee, “but I do not go out with married men, or men with a history."

" want me to look for impediments?"

"Please do Heather."

"So tell me what he looks like?"

"Oh late forties..."

"Crib robber!" Heather giggled with glee.

"Be that as it may," Nessa collected her dignity, "he's just showing gray at the temple, about six five, slimmish..."

"He sounds a wow."


“Well, he has potential,” Nessa said with a giggle, “so how long do you need?”


“I’ll see what I can find out later tonight,” Heather said, “I need to sort some things out first.”


“Oh hi Nessa,” Jo said as she came back in from a run. 


“Hi – ready to go back?”


“Just about,” she said as she took a bottle of water from the icebox.  “So what brings you here?”


“Coffee and chat,” Nessa said with a smile, “coffee and chat...”


7.45 pm

The Rochermann Apartment


"I heard Charly complaining earlier about the Ruritanian Society ball," Diana said as she stood with her old friend.

"Yes we got dragooned into going Diana." Queen Therese answered.

"I thought that Princess Flavia usually did it."

"She does, but the poor old thing had a fall and broke her hip at Farrence, her doctors say it will be a couple of months at least before she can do engagements again," the Queen said as she sipped her tea.

"Well she is in her late eighties."

"I know, but she actually likes all this fuss and crap...I guess I've got used to her doing a lot of things that really are my responsibility."

"Well Terri,” Diana said, “rather you then me."

"So the Romanov in you has no desire to do formal engagements?"

"NO!" Diana laughed. "I'll leave that to REAL royals like you."

"Oh the blessings of having a morganatic ancestor."





"I love those claws Abigail," Sukie said as she looked at the inch long red daggers on the end of the models fingers, "but how do you cope with them at school."

"I don't," Abigail giggled, "these are false ones. I had these put on for a shoot, but when I get home later they have to come off."

"Such a pity," Sukie shook her head, "they really do look amazing."

"What are you talking about?" Charly asked as she joined the chat.

"Abigail's incredible fingernails...Aren't they just so wonderful?"

"They are," Charly sighed, "but not practical."

"Anyway changing topics...reluctantly. How are college applications going for both of you?"

Charly smiled as she said "I have been accepted to study architectural history in Paris."

"Nice Charly..." Abigail smiled, "I'm still waiting on Cooper Union till later in the year, but I'm taking the entrance exams for Cambridge, and Stanford, Cornell, and Yale all have my applications filed."

"You've got all the bases covered then?"

"I have Aunt Sukie.  But I really hope Cooper Union will take me.  I just need to add some shots to my portfolio for them to review."





"So Betsy I believe you run for your university?" the Queen asked making small talk.

"Yes, Your Highness...”


“Oh lord above – please, Call me Terri,” she said with a smile.


“Well, Terri - I'm not great, but I enjoy running, and it's a great way to get to know people being on a team."

"As you say it is a way to make friends, I played on a basketball team when I was younger, and I still stay in touch with all those girls."

"Is basketball what you were talking about with the president when you were at the White House?"

"Yes...your president is quite the enthusiast, he was telling me of the team he was on in Hawaii that won the state high school championship."

"Oh is that how the press caught him demonstrating his free throw technique to you?"

"Oh that damn photo has caused so much disturbance," the Queen laughed quietly. "So many on your right wing here in America hate it that he sometimes shows he's a human being."

"I agree with that, Fox News was in an uproar about it being improper."

"It's a good thing no one got pictures of him playing one-on-one with my cousin the King of Spain then."

"A VERY good job." Betsy giggled.




It’s proving to be a fabulous party,” Fiona said as she stood with Abby.


“Oh yes – and so far the peace has been kept.”


"Have you practiced dancing with your grandfather Abs?" Fiona asked.

"We have had a couple of spins round the room yes,” Abby said, “and you?"

"Yes, Daddy and I have been doing the waltz."

"So will Mick be your escort?"

"At most of the functions..."

"I think a lot of the girls can't wait to meet him."

"So they say Abs," Fi lowered her voice, "look Abs I need to say sorry, I got silly."

"Fiona it’s not a problem."


"Look how do I explain this," Abigail collected her thoughts. "I'm very happy being with Tony, but just once in a while I like to have a woman in my life as well. As I thought I said though, it's never permanent, I allow myself little love affairs..."

"So it was love?" Fi interrupted.

"Of course it was, do you think I'm a total slut Fiona?"

"No, I guess not."

"Anyway," Abigail looked stern, "loving you was fun, but it was strictly an affair, it never had a future...Okay?"


“I understand that,” Fiona said, “besides, I have someone else in my life now.”




“Her name’s Suzette, she’s a second year law student.  I’m hoping to introduce her to Mummy and Daddy at some point.”


“Good for you,” Abby said with a smile, “and by the way, you were fabulous.”


Fi smiled as she looked over to the side of the room.


“Uh oh.”


“Uh oh what?”


“Look,” she said as she looked to where Abby and Nell were standing, and Buffy walking towards them.


“Eleanor, Allyson?”


“Buffy,” Nell said as Ally remained silent, “I want to thank you that you were able to come tonight.”


“It was my pleasure,” Buffy said as she smiled at Ally, “I hope that silly thing on Page 5 today didn’t upset you?”


“I would not know,” Ally said quietly, “I do not read the gossip columns.  Abby mentioned there was some silly comment that you and I may come to blows tonight.”


“Sukie,” Diana said quietly as she saw Abby and Betsy walk over, “find Kelly.  Now.”


“Oh god,” Sukie said as she hurried off.


“And do you think we will?”


Ally glared at Buffy as Nell said “Ally, remember your promise...”


“No,” she eventually said, “I do not think we will Buffy.  I promised my mother and my sister I would not cause trouble, and despite every story you may have heard, I do keep my word.”


“Good – i keep my word as well,” Buffy said quietly.


“Excellent,” Ally said, “then believe me when I say that, for the season, I will not cause any trouble.  But when this is done, stay out of my way, Buffy, because I cannot guarantee what might happen.”


“The feeling is mutual, I assure you,” Buffy said as she looked at her mother, who was arriving with Kelly.  “Well, I’m glad we got that out in the open.”


“So am I,” Ally said as they stared at each other.


“Right, good that’s settled,” Nell said as she and Abby took Ally to one side, and Betsy took Buffy to the other side.


“Well, I guess that’s a truce for now,” Sukie whispered to Kelly.


“For now...”


"So is anyone coming out to California for my daughter’s ball?" Rebecca Culver asked.

"I'm coming," Abigail nodded, "it times just right with a chat show i have to do in LA."

"And I'm booked to do a double with Trina, so count mother and I in." Charly smiled.

"She told me,” Rebecca said, “and the Secret Service has already been in contact."

"Damn!" Terri rolled her eyes, "at least in France we don't have this constant shadowing."

"Yes but in France you are considered a private citizen." Brigitte commented.

"While here all they see is the HRH." Rebecca added.

"Well guard or not, my daughter and I will be there Rebecca."

"And you Katerina?"

"Yes. Brig has insisted."

"As has my daughter," Olivia spoke up.

"Well with all the local girls it should be a great party then." Rebecca Culver smiled contentedly.


“What are you talking about now Mom,” Trina said as she came over.


“All the girls here are coming to the ball as well,” Rebecca said.


“Great – just don’t tell Missy,” Trina said, “or she’ll have us booked for a mass shoot as well.  Apparently she was very impressed with last week...”




“Hey,” Samantha said as she walked over to Sharon Kennedy, “are you enjoying yourself?”


“I am actually,” Sharon said, “it’s just at times I wish my mother was here to see me with all of you.”


“When did she die?”


“A few years ago – my dad re-married, but...  Well, she died as well.”


“But he will be here for the ball?”


“Oh yes – we’re bringing my younger brother and sister down for a few days, and my cousin will be my escort.  I’m staying at his place for the next couple of weeks.”


“Oh?  Does he live locally?”


“Yeah – his younger sister was at school with Abby, Ally and Nell, but she’s at MIT.  She’s coming down for the ball as well though.”


“Well, at least your family will be there as well.”


“So can I ask a personal question?”


“Of course.”


“Is there some history between your mother and Abby’s mother?”


“Well, they knew each other a long time ago, but I think whatever it is dealt with now.  Why do you ask?”


“Not sure – and I’m sorry if I intruded.”


“It’s all right – being Scottish, you get used to looking for gossip,” Sam said with a smile.




6.30 pm Pacific Time

Olive Garden, Southland Mall


“Thank you,” Mary said as the waitress put down the flatbread, and looked round the table.  Her father was sat next to her, the two of them beaming as he said “go on, you can dig in.”


As they grabbed breadsticks and pieces of flatbread, Mary looked at each of them.  David was seventeen, and in his senior year.  A member of the school football team, he had also started working at a local auto shop, wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps.


Suzie was fifteen, and was talking with her fourteen year old brother Tom.  The two were in the same high school as David, but were discussing an upcoming project.


Thirteen year old Vicky and twelve year old Alison were talking about the boys, while the youngest, ten year old Bobby, was nibbling on a breadstick as he looked round.


“We’ve never done anything like this that I can remember,” he eventually said, “what’s the event?”


“Well,” Mary said, “I have some news.  You know I was away last week, and that there are a lot of people who want me to be a model for them?”


“Yeah,” Vicky said, “and?”


“And – I’ve been asked by the hotel to take on a new job.  One which means I have a lot more freedom to look after the six of you...”


“Five of us,” David said.


“Until you get that diploma, six of you,” his dad said, making the others laugh.


“Which means I can be sure I do my share of looking after the six of you.  The new job pays a little more, but it’s something Pops and I think is the right thing to do.  So this – this is a celebration meal.”


“Well, I like it,” Alison said, “and Mary is real pretty in a picture.”


“Why thank you for saying so,” Mary said with a smile.  “It may mean I have to go away again from time to time, but only if I know Pops can cover looking after you lot.”


“You know I could pitch in,” David said as he took a slice of flatbread.


“I know,” his father said, “I think Mary was considering the others.”


“Oh – oh, right,” David said as he blushed.


“Look, things aren’t going to change that much,” their father said, “chances are Mary will be even more busy, but we’re going to make sure you all get what you need, all right?”


“You always have Pops,” Suzie said, “both of you.  We know that’s not going to change.”


“Good – never forget that,” Mary said with a smile.


10 pm

The Richmond Mansion


"I have a secret, lover!" Heather grinned broadly as Sandy climbed into bed beside her.

"You do?”  Sandy reached over and kissed Heather, before saying “and I'm sorry for being so late, but they want an awful lot for as little as possible, and I was telling them the financial facts of life."

"Okay, but while you were out your Mom dropped in for a little chat."

"She did...what did she want?"

"She wanted me to check someone out...You know I missed my calling, I ought to have become a private detective."

"Who did she want you to check?"

"This man she's met..."

"A man!" Sandy interrupted.

"I know. it surprised me as well."

"So who is he? and why did she want you to check him out?"

"I guess because your Mother is a careful woman lover, and unattached men in their late 40's are rare finds..."

"She's old enough to be his mother," Sandy interrupted again grinning broadly.

"But does she look it?"

"True," Sandy nodded.

"Anyway he's a vice-president at Amininco, and from his picture quite a dish..."

"Hey I thought you hated men?"

"I do,” Heather said, “but I can still tell a stud when I see one."

"Okay, so what did you find out?"

"Well he is single, he lost his wife three months ago to breast cancer, which I think is the reason he moved to New York. No children, no history of affairs that I can find a trace of."

"Umm he sounds too perfect...what about money, is he a fortune hunter?"

"Well he's not in your mothers league wealth wise, but he earns a respectable pittance, and with the stock he holds and other investments, I worked out he's worth around Fifty million."

"Oh respectable poverty as I once heard it described."

"Lover you are a snob...and to most of us that is a tidy little fortune."

"I know...I was just teasing." Sandy pulled Heather close to kiss her, "so no red flags?'

"None that I can see off the top, but I could investigate deeper?"


“No – let Mom do that,” Sandy said as she turned the light off, “let’s investigate something else instead...”


Wednesday 13th January

8.45 am

The de Ros Mansion


“So how did it go last night,” Letty Kinman asked as she sat next to Abby in the assembly hall.


“Well, no major fights – but I’m glad that’s the last one,” Abby replied. 


“And your house guests?”


“Spending the day at Ju’s office.  But I did get one bit of good news when I got home – Tony’s back in town.”


“So you’ll be seeing him later tonight?”


“Oh yes – most definitely...”


“Good morning Ladies,” Miss Tennant said as she stood at the front.  “I wanted to pass on my thanks to you for not – if you will forgive the phrase – rising to the bait of the painting over the weekend.  It shows a high level of maturity and discretion, and I am proud of you for that.


“In other matters, I remind the Seniors that your applications need to be completed in the next week.  See Mrs Brand if there any difficulties with this, so that she can advise appropriately.”


“She hasn’t heard yet, has she?”


“Nope,” Abby said, “but she should hear at some point today.  Fortunately, you were at a training session with Annie, and I was at the tea party.”


“So when we couldn’t get the epoxy resin...”


“We got sneaky.”


Abby looked over to Doc, ho looked back and smiled in reply.


“So let us sing the school song, and then to your classes.”


As they filed out of the room, Kate and Wilhelmina saw Grace walking towards them.


“I need a word,” she said quietly as she walked them to her office.  Closing the door, she said “I was on the phone to my counterpart at Sacred Heart – hence my absence at morning assembly.”


“Oh no,” Kate said, “what have they done?”


“Nothing physical – nothing in that sense – but apparently, their audio system has been playing our school song non-stop, and their computers have been infected with a virus that plays a slideshow.  He’s sending me a copy of the slides.”


“And they show?”


“The victories of this school over 2015.  Someone wanted to send them a message.”


“Anna Carlton?”


“I had the same thought, but they say there’s no trace of who put it in there.  So unless she wishes to own up – and something tells me nobody will – we have to hope that’s enough.”




10 am

FBI Field Office, Buffalo NY


Peter Welch was looking through some files when his desk phone rang.


“Agent Welch,” he said as he picked up the handset.


“Peter, it’s Jan.  How’s it going?”


“I’m making progress, but I can’t discuss it with you now,” Peter said.  “I’ll call you on the private line at one.”


“Okay – talk to you then,” Peter said as he looked across the desk.


“Who was that?”


“Jealous, Edie?” 


Edie Corben shook her head as she looked at her partner.  Two years younger, she was dressed in a black jacket and pants, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail.


“No – what are you looking at police reports for anyway?”


“Oh, something one of my contacts told me about,” Peter said.  “There’s apparently some trouble brewing with the Sporetti family – best always to be ahead of the score on that one.”


“Surely that’s a local PD problem,” Edie said with a smile.


“Normally – but there’s also a rumour Sporetti is reaching out to other families nearby.  Maybe that split last year has left some bad blood around.


“Anyway, you meeting up with your sister at lunchtime?”


“Chloe?  Yeah – we have some planning to do for our mother’s birthday.”


“Well, say hi for me,” Peter said as he picked up the phone again.  “Zoe?  I’ll be home by six tonight – tell the boys we’re going to the game later...”



Complete Style


“Ju?  Trina Culver to see you.”


“Show her in Janine,” Juliette said as the Californian heiress walked in.  “Trina – good to see you again.  I hear the final tea party went well last night?”


“Well, it went without incident at any rate – my parents are coming with me to the Country Club on Friday, and the gala night Monday, and then the ball.”


“So how are you enjoying the scene?”


“Different – more formal than the West Coast.”


“Are you doing Vienna?  That is much more formal.”


Trina smiled as Juliette sat down.  “So what can I do for you?”


“Mary Clarke – I’ve got to know her very well over the last few weeks, and I was glad to help out for the Russia trip, but now that she has gone full time, I think she needs a new wardrobe.”


“I would tend to agree,” Juliette said, “but if you have got to know Mary, you know her priorities are different from most people.”


“Oh I know that – but I think we need to, for the first time in many years, get her to treat herself.”


“So how can i help?”


“I’m going to get her back over here tomorrow for an overnight trip.  Can you help me get her outfitted?”


“It’s not me you need,” Juliette said as she picked up her phone, “and I’m glad you’re doing this now.  She’s getting ready for her own holiday.


“Merlin?  Got a little job for you...”


1 pm

Daniel, E 65th Street


“May I help you Madame?”


Olivia Treharran smiled as she looked at the young maitre d’, in her grey jacket and skirt.


“I’m meeting a friend here for lunch – Nick Wu?”


“Ah yes – you must be Lady Treharran.  If you would follow me?”


She followed the young man past the tables, as they approached a table it the back.  As they did, a young Asian man smiled as he saw her.


"Olivia love it's such a pleasure to see you." Nick Wu stood up and kissed her.

"Long time no see Nick, and you've gone up in the world."

"Oh I've had a little success," the designer grinned. "Can I present Adrienne Hulbert, my creative director, and Steven Cardiff my publicist."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Olivia shook hands before she sat down.

"Now,” Nick said as he poured Olivia a glass of wine, “you probably want to know why I asked you here?"

"Well I'd assumed it was to reminisce...but..."

"No, we can do that later over lunch." Nick paused, "Olivia I'll put this to you straight, I want you to become Nick Wu's spokesmodel..."

"Oh Nick, I'm too old to fall for that joke." Olivia laughed.

"Olivia darling, I'm not joking."

The older woman looked at him, and said quietly "You aren't?"

"No,” Nick said, “my marketing people think that I need to target a slightly older, and very sophisticated audience for my top of the range lines, and I've seen the recent pics, you still have more then your fair share of that something special."

"Well Nick," Olivia looked slightly flustered, "I'm honoured, but be practical, what use is a blind model to you?"


“Honestly?  It’s something we can deal with, Olivia.  It’s you want, bad eyes and all.  Your face has beauty and experience.  Just what we need.”


Olivia blushed and said “Well, if you want me, you need to talk to Missy.”


“Already started – shall we order?”



1.30 pm

Cipriani Club, 55 Wall Street


“There you are,” Juliette said as she looked up.

"Sorry I'm late girls, but that traffic is a bitch." Sandy smiled as she eased herself into a booth, and then brushed down the skirt of her suit. "Mmm looks like we had the same ideas, love those suits girls."

"Well for a late's VERY appropriate darling, and tres chic." Diana smiled.

"Okay,” Jan said as she sipped her drink, “as I was telling everyone Sandy, the investigations by myself and by Heather have hit something of a brick wall."

"So she told me Jan," Sandy spoke as she looked at her menu.

"Have they gone to ground?" Juliette asked.

"I don't think so," Janice shook her head, "but either they've guessed or they've been tipped off that I'm interested."

"And speaking from Madame's organization," Dominique sipped her wine, "we feel like we are banging our heads against a brick wall."

"Changing the subject just for a second girls – Sandy, Cherie, is that your mother over there eating with that gentleman?" Diana nodded.


Sandy looked over and said “I do believe it is – so that must be Mister David McIlroy.”


“Oh?  Does this mean your mother has found a young beau?”


“She seems to have,” Jan said with a smile as she watched them laughing.


“So who is he?”


“An insurance executive, widower, late forties...”


“You got Heather to check her out?”


“Nope – Nessa did,” Sandy said with a laugh.


“So – returning to the situation in Buffalo...”


“My contact confirms they have heard  nothing – so there is a plug somewhere between the police and the FBI there.  Heather will see what I can find out more locally on Friday.”


“Madame is also sending someone to help you,” Dominique said, “she’s just joined the organization, and can act as your foot soldier for your visit.”


“Anyone I’ve met?”


“No – but Natalya says she can get the job done.  Her name is Louise...”







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