To Be in England – Part 3







Thursday 16th June

9 pm BST

Briggens House Hotel



“I am amazed, Wilhelmina – thank them for me on my behalf…


“You’ve already sent the letters out?  Okay – I’ll let Caroline know.  Talk toy uo tomorrow.”


She ended the call and looked up to see Grace and Harriet standing by the bar.


"So what are these mysterious phone calls between you and Wilhelmina about Sarah?"


She smiled as she said "Something I thought a day ago was impossible."

"That sounds intriguing."

"Well,” Sarah said as they collected their drinks, “I had the crazy idea that I'd like to see my old team play my new team, and I rang Wilhelmina to ask if it was even remotely possible? I assumed even at St Angela's it would require too much planning and fund raising...BUT, Wilhelmina has hit up some alumnae, as well as parents like Juan Murchado, and as a result St Angela's are coming to Europe to play a three game tour at the End of August, two games here in England, and one in Switzerland against Diana de Ros' old school."

"WOW!" Harriet looked shocked, What St Angela's can do still overwhelms me."






10 pm

Kings College, Cambridge


“They must be a popular group,” Pepsi said as she looked at the group by the bar.


"Rowing is a huge thing here at Cambridge," Will watched as the members of the Kings Eight were feted by their fellows.

"Having gone to a non-rowing school like Harrow we can feel quite out of it." Jack grinned.

"Does your school row Pepsi," Edith asked.

"No it's one of the few sports we don't do, but I have a little interest because a friend of mine is coxing two of her friends from Yale as they aim to be the US coxed pair at the Rowing World Championships."

"Our first men’s crew got bumped each day this May and slipped from 9th to 13th in the First Division." Simon laughed "but our crew can still out party most of the others."

"Our women's top crew also had a bad year losing their place in the First Division." Robert added. "While both our Second Eights stayed down in the depths of Division Four."


“Who is that,” Pepsi then said as a band started to play.


“Who cares – let’s get on the dance floor…”






"So you have both rock bands play this, as well as a dance band?" Pepsi grinned as she gyrated to the music.

"Yes," Jack laughed, "do you like them?"

"Yeah these guys are pretty good," Pepsi shouted back.

"I've heard worse," Angel shouted as she and Simon danced nearby.

"Haven't we all little sister." Jack laughed.




"They seem to be enjoying themselves Mandy," Edith asked from the sidelines.

"Indeed they do darling."

"Look I've been dying to ask,” Edith said, “is that an engagement ring on Pepsi's hand?"

"It is Edith."

"Is it Jack's?"

"Of course it is darling," Mandy laughed, "and before you ask yes she is only sixteen, no we totally approve, no they won't announce it formally till she's 18, and as they've been a couple already for two years no I do think it’s not just puppy love."

"You have a lot of answers Mandy," Edith laughed.

"It's the first time she's actually worn the ring in public,” Mandy drawled, “she usually wears it on a chain round her neck darling."

"So they are being as discreet as possible?"

"Only a very few people know." Mandy nodded.

"Well I for one won't tell."





"So really Robert,” Will asked at the bar, “how is my son actually doing?"

"Well,” the Bursar said quietly, “you know we once thought he was cruising towards a 'gentleman's third'?"

"Yes," Will nodded.

"No longer, this year Jack has buckled down and really applied himself. His Supervisor of Studies knows he probably will get an Upper Second in the first part of the tripos, and just maybe he might squeeze a first."

"Jack a first Robert? Surely not?"

"He's worked hard Will...and I have to say he's grown up an awful lot."

"Well that's 'her' influence," Will smiled at Pepsi dancing with his son.

"I'd rather guessed that," the Bursar smiled as well. "Despite the generally held view that Land Economy is a subject for thickos, it's not, and Jack has shown at last some of the application needed to use those brains of his."

"Well I'm glad, and I wish his mother and I could take credit, but really Pepsi is the one checks on his grades, encourages him, threatens him..."

"I applaud her," Robert stroked his chin, "you know like most people i used to think Jack and David had been born the wrong way round, that David should have been the heir, that he was the more mature...well I was wrong."





"So how is David doing at Yale Mandy?"

"You know David darling, if his grade is an A minus he frets that he's failing."

"Ever the perfectionist," Edith shook her head.

"I never worry about David the way I used to about Jack."

"David is in so many ways perfect." Edith shook her head, "so does he still have the same girlfriend?"

"Darling he and Judy are as fixed as Jack and Nicola. By the way you know what Pepsi said about the girl who is coxing, that's actually Judy's room mate."

"They sound a tight group."

"Oh the 'Sinners' are very tight," Mandy smiled as she drawled, "even Simon's girlfriend is an old school friend of Judy's."

"That's pretty amazing...and what about Billy?"

"He's pretty serious with Simon's girlfriends younger sister."

"Do they ALL know each other?" Edith laughed aloud.

"Pretty much darling."




As Pepsi made her way into the ladies’ lounge, she was smiling – this was a place she could fall easily in love with.   The sense of history that seemed to literally breath through the stones…


As she adjusted herself and sat down, she could hear some of the other women talking amongst themselves.


“Am I seeing things, or is that Angel Fitzstuart dancing with Simon?”


“Yeah - her family are here with Jack?”


“Millingham?  I saw them – who is the girl he is dancing with?”


“Apparently, his girlfriend – an American student.  I asked Felicity about her, and she said her name was Nicola Broadhurst – she’s one of the Sinners.”


“One of THAT group?  Wow – and that dress she’s wearing, I bet it’s a designer one.”


“Why don’t you ask her?”


“I couldn’t…”


“It is an original,” Pepsi said as she came out and washed her hands.  “Kylie Mitchell designed it for me.”


She smiled as the girls looked at her, drying her hands before she walked out…



1.30 pm PT

Oakland Hills


“And what have you been doing,” Mary said as she saw Alison looking at the laptop.


"I was looking at pictures on-line of where Abigail's family comes from Mary," Alison looked at her sister.


"It looks as though there are an awful lot of grape vines."

"Yeah the Medoc is a very famous wine making area, and her grandmother runs one of the major producers."

"Just like the Napa valley?"


Alison let out a low whistle as she said "Abby will one day inherit all that?"

"I guess so, when her Grandmother dies.  She has a cousin, Alain, so I imagine her aunt and he will get a share as well."

"Wow," Alison shook her head, “living there would be so cool."

"I guess, but you know I still kinda like this old place," Mary smiled.

"Hey its home," Suzie said as she walked in and dropped the bag she was carrying.

"Suzie, I hope you didn't break anything?" Mary gave her a look.

"No,” Suzie said as she rolled her eyes, “I got just what you put on the shopping list Mary, and none of it's breakable."

"Good.  So are you both sure we have got you enough clothes for the vacation?"

"I hope so," Suzie nodded.

"Well unlike in Louisville we won't have the generosity of CS magazine and Mary Thomas to dress you all to the nines."

"We know Mary," her sisters said as she exchanged meaningful glances. 


“What are you lot talking about,” Vicki said as she wondered in from the kitchen.


“Holidays,” Mary said as she looked at her watch, “and I need to get going.  The boys will be home in a couple of hours – think you can behave yourselves until then?”


“Yes Mary,” the three girls said as she put her jacket on, grabbed her car keys and ran out.


“Right,” Vicky said, “did you all read the e-mail from Katy?”


“Yeah – HOTS meeting next Thursday night.   What are you going to tell her?”


“Not sure yet,” Vicky said, “how did it go with Bobby last week Suzie?”


“He let me give him a hand job – and he kissed my chest and played with it.  So not at the same level as you two yet, but…”


1.30 pm PT

Los Angeles


"So who was that Maddie?" Emma asked from where she sat on the couch reading.

"It was Liz Applebee,” Maddie said as she put the phone down, “she's at San Francisco airport waiting for her flight back."

"So did she get Mary to agree to those slight changes?"

"Yes, and she also got another lesson in Clarke family economics."


"Mary was fretting about what she currently is spending."

"Oh come on..." Emma looked skywards.

"I know, I do know," Maddie shook her head, 'but that's why I love Mary."

"You know the script is really reading well now you know," Emma held up what she had been reading, "we are all sure it's going to be a pretty fair description."

"Well Rick is a top screenwriter.'

"I know - I'll have to tell him that when we see him in London."

"So are you packed?" Maddie asked.

"Not really, I'm barely taking anything, I'm going to spend a LOT of your money darling getting myself new clothes in London," Emma smiled happily.


“Sounds fair to me…”



Rodeo Drive


"Thank you Sally, it's a fantastic present, but you really shouldn't have," David shook his head as he and his girlfriend came out of the bookshop.

"David,” Sally said with a smile, “it really wasn't that much..."

"But it’s a first edition of The Great Gatsby," the young man looked concerned, "are you sure you can afford it?"

"Well I only paid part, Dad paid the rest, but my folks like you so much, and we all wanted to give you a present."

"Well thank you all," David shook his head, then kissed the girl in the huge black spectacles lightly, "but I still think it’s far too much."

"David Clarke you are incorrigible," Sally laughed, "and anyway you got me an invite to THE social event of the year...Abigail de Ros's birthday party...AND free flights to it, and accommodation provided"

"It's still not like a first edition of Gatsby," David gently took it out of the bag.

"You know Trina is right, you'll always be so modest...And I love you for that."

"Well I love you too Sally," David said before he gave her a longer kiss.

"Wow,” Sally said, “did my boyfriend just actually says he loves me?"

"Yes," David blushed, "was it wrong?"

"No, I'm just teasing silly," Sally gave him a long hard kiss back.  “Want to go somewhere?”


“Only if you want to…”


“What do you think,” Sally said as she hailed a cab, and took his hand.


10.30 pm BST

Kings College, Cambridge


"Jack,” Will said as he sat next to his oldest son, “are you going to take Pepsi out on the river tonight?"

"Well I've booked a punt Dad.  It is kind of the done thing, after all."

"Alright,” Will said, “well I'll take your Mother, Simon and Angel out...and see if I can still remember how to do it."

"You stand on the deck...and push Dad...remember PUSH!"

"Jack it’s not that many years since I was an undergraduate.," Will laughed and shook his head, "but I do remember saying just that to your grandfather on a night just like this you know."

"I'll be accompanying the second most beautiful woman here," Jack grinned happily.

"Oh and who is the most beautiful?" Will raised an eyebrow.

"Mum of course," Jack grinned.

"Alright you got me there Will laughed again, "I'll be in huge trouble if I don't agree with you on that."


“Then you had better make sure you don’t,” Jack said as he smiled.




"Is that John Heller over there dancing with the girl with the purple hair?" Angel peeked myopically as she danced.

"It is," Simon said as he shook his head, "why don't you wear your glasses Angel?"

"Because I'm vain..."

“I thought it was a given with the sinners that glasses were a given?”


“Yeah, well…”


"And anyway, how do you know him?"

"We practically grew up together,” Angel said, “and I particularly know his brother Luke, he's a photographer.  Mummy look," Angel nudged her Mother as she danced by, "look who that is?"

"Who" Mandy peered and then smiled, "oh look Will,” she continued as she pointed her husband in the right direction.

"Who...oh John Heller, I forgot he'd broken family tradition and come to Cambridge. I wonder if his parents..."

"That looks like Clive and Martha right over the back there,” Mandy said with a smile.  “Will darling, collect Robert and Edith, I'll grab a bottle of champagne and we go say hello."


"Alright my love," Will said as he looked for the Bursar and his wife.




“Clive, darling, look who is coming over,” Martha Heller said as she saw the group making their way round the dance floor.


“Who – Ordford,” Bishop Heller said as he stood up, “I should have realised you would be here tonight.”


“Indeed – you know Jack and Angel of course, as well as Simon, but I do not believe you have met Nicola, Jack’s girlfriend.”


“We met in passing in Munich, at the wedding,” Martha said with a smile, “your father is an owner of the racehorse, and you’re normally called Pepsi, right?”


“That’s right Your Ladyship,” Pepsi said as she gave a small curtsey.


“Oh come – we are all friends tonight,” Clive said with a smile.  “Please sit down – and we can share that rather excellent bottle of champagne you have there.”


“Actually, I’m glad you came over,” Martha said, "I have a mysterious present I was asked to pass on to Jack Fitzstuart's date."


“You have?”


“I do,” Martha Heller shook her head as she retrieved something. "Yvonne Leventhal gave me these earlier today..."

"My Mother did?" Simon looked bemused, 

"We met for lunch, but something has been puzzling me.  There is a note, but it is for a girl called Kimberley, not Pepsi or Nicola."

"Dear Goddess," Pepsi's jaw hung upon as she picked up carefully the 16 white rose bouquet.

"So is it from all of them, or just 'her'," Jack whispered.

"Just 'her' saying how proud she is of me," Pepsi used a tissue to wipe away tears. "This is just so special she organized this."

"It is," Jack smiled as he put his arms round the girls shoulder.

"Will someone please explain?" Martha Heller looked from face to face.


“Sorry,” Pepsi said as she wiped away a tear, “I was adopted as a baby, Your Ladyship…”


“Martha, dear.”


“Sorry – Martha.  My birth mother is someone I believe you have met – Janice Carter, Katy Carter’s mother.  She called me Kimberley before I was taken to be adopted – she told me when I told her I knew.”


Clive and Martha looked at Mandy, who smiled and said “it is an open secret amongst her friends – but we need to keep it a secret for now.”


"But forgive me Kimberly," the Bishop drew a huge smile with that from the young girl, "but surely Janice Carter is far too young to be your true Mother?"

"Clive it’s not a pretty tale," Mandy looked downwards, "I think both Pepsi and Jan would rather people didn't know…"

"No, she said trustworthy people, and I think we can trust the bishop, then I should tell," Pepsi fought a tear. "Yes Sir, under normal circumstances she would be too young, when people noted our resemblance I thought we might be just distant cousins," Pepsi's hand shook slightly, "but my Mother's story is far darker than that, and it makes her the woman I admire most in all the world."

"Oh?" Martha tilted her head.

"My mom was abducted and repeatedly gang raped by a gang of bikers over a 48 hour period before she escaped only just with her life."

"Dear God," the Bishop whispered as he gripped his wife's arm.

"She gave birth to me days after her 14th birthday..."

"But that means she was just 13 years old when they..." the Bursar’s wife interrupted and spoke.

"Just so Edith," Mandy embraced her.  “That is why it is kept quiet except amongst our friends.  Not even Yvonne knows the full truth.”

"You poor, poor child, and even more that poor exceptional mother of yours." Martha said as she put her arms round the young woman.


3 pm PT

San Francisco


"Are Joey and her family going to Abs party?" Trina asked Mary as they sat in makeup.

"I would guess so,” Mary said, “but why ask me, she's your friend?"

"Yeah but I know Joey and you talk online."

"Yeah we do, she's nice...for a real life German Countess that is."

"Joey is more Canadian then she ever will be German Mary."

"Well anyway she's going to the party it will be one more face I actually know."

"Yeah I guess that was one thing doing the New York deb thing, I do know quite a few of Abby's friends."




6 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“Well, I’m packed and ready to go,” Abby said quietly, “to the airport in a couple of hours.”


“And you are travelling as?”


"Cari,” Abby said on the screen, “I'm going to try and get into Germany as anonymously as possible."

"You think you can Abs?" Carina sounded amused.

"Well if no one at Lufthansa doesn't rat me out, or anyone on the flight recognise me, I'm hoping they'll just assume I'm a rather gangly college girl on vacation."

"Well glasses on, and do something with your hair, then wear absolutely no makeup, and I'm still not sure no one will know it’s you."

"I can but try."

"All your camera equipment packed?"

"Yes, I'm just hoping the photos will be okay."

"Well both Kelsey and Molly are frightened by the idea of having Abigail de Ros photograph them." Carina laughed, "my revenge for them not telling me we were training with Olympic gold medallists."

"Yeah Jo told me they'd slipped that one past you."

"Well I have a hard enough job steering the right course without worrying that I'm embarrassing myself in front of women can do it for real."

"The girls must have faith in you though."

"I guess.  See you tomorrow…"



11.30 pm BST

Penny’s London Flat


"Penny darling," Helen asked quietly as they snuggled under the sheets. "Is the pain thing why you love horror movies so much?"

"Yes...I guess so...they do certainly offer a certain safety valve."

"You can watch them and it takes the edge off the desire to do things for real?"

"Yes," Penny nodded.

"So who suggested it?"

"Kay Winters - she was an original China Doll, just as I was."

"And it works?"

"Well…  Did you have any idea what lurks in me when we first met darling?" Penny whispered as she tickled her lover.

"No, and stop doing that," Helen giggled, "you just seemed to be Madame's rather dull, almost colourless number two."

"And you know I'd convinced myself that was really me."

Laughing, Helen said "Didn't I hear you threw up skinning a deer?"

"Yes," Penny blushed. "Diana never stops reminding me of that, she couldn't believe it was the same person who flayed Johnson alive."

"You and everyone else who counts at least know different today," Helen smiled as Penny's tickles turned to caresses.



Some time later, they separated and lay on their backs, looking up at the ceiling.


"Why did you turn to crime Penny?" Helen asked as they lay still, sweating, their bodies satisfied.

"When I realised that I was starving, and that if I asked for help the worst thing of all would happen...I'd be sent back to my father."

"That can't have been easy my love."

"No it wasn't," Penny suddenly giggled, "do you know what the hardest thing was?"


"Getting his voice out of my head preaching 'thou shalt not steal'."

"But you did?"

"Yes," Penny nodded, "the little money I'd been able to gather before I left soon ran out. I was sleeping in alleyways, and sometimes these big crates they used to leave outside Covent Garden."

"So what was the first thing you ever stole?'

"A little bottle of Lucozade because I remembered what the Tele ads said about it giving you energy."


"It helped, next day I nicked some cheese, after that more Lucozade, and some bread. Didn't take me long to learn how shoplift little bits of food."


Smiling, she turned her head and said “but that is the past, and we seek the future.  Good night my love…”


As Penny fell asleep, Helen lay awake, unable to get the truth of Penny's early life out of her brain. Her own life had been tainted by tragedy and revenge, but at least she had known the real love of parents, and the comforts of a good home, even after the Master had found her that night after she had killed Bruce's killers.

Penny had known nothing of that, she had known abuse, violence, loneliness, poverty, homelessness, hunger, fear...The list could stretch on forever of the things Penny had endured. 

Was it a wonder there lurked a creature who if unleashed would try and inflict as much pain and horror that Penny had felt and experienced?

That she had somehow created the Penny that the world knew was nothing short of a miracle. Penny was erudite, smart, well-dressed, motivated, loving, all the things that would lead you to believe she had had a perfectly conventional upbringing. Not that she clawed her way to adulthood via stealing, prostitution, and working in a bondage dungeon.

"Poor, darling, wonderful Penny," Helen stroked a hair from her lovers eyes as she slept, "I love you just so very, very much."




Kings College, Cambridge


“Where are you taking me,” Pepsi said as Jack took her by the arm, and walked her to the entrance to the marquee.


“I thought you might like a little walk to the river,” he said with a smile as they stepped out onto the grass, and she saw the lanterns along the river back, piercing the darkness of the night sky.  The grounds sloped gently down to the river bank, and she could hear the sounds of water gently lapping on the sides.


“This place truly is amazing,” Pepsi said with a smile, “the girls are going to be so jealous that they missed this.”


“Well, they’re going to love this,” Jack said as he walked her down to the river’s edge, where a number of punts were being manned by some men, each one with a lit lantern on the front and back.  “Go on – get in and make yourself comfortable on the cushions.”


“Jack, how much have you had to drink?”


“Enough, I think,” Will said as he and Jack escorted Mandy and Angel down, and helped them into two more of the punts, before the men took hold of long poles and gently pushed their way into the river, Pepsi smiling as they moved along…


They were not the only ones – as Pepsis eyes adjusted to the light, she saw there were quite a few crafts moving up and down the river, others waving as they passed.


"Jack this is magical," Pepsi smiled as she looked at the other punts round them on the river. "Is this more tradition?"

"Yes," Jack smiled back.  “I thought you would prefer this to the other tradition?”


“And that is?”


“Jumping into the Cam from one of the bridges at dawn.”


Pepsi stared at him as she said “in this dress?”


“Precisely – this made much more sense.”

"It does…  The one thing wrong is that you are standing up there with your pole, and aren't..."

"Pepsi darling,” Jack said with a raised eyebrow, “language please."

"I know," the American girl giggled as she held her left hand up, the diamond glittering in the dim light from the lanterns. "Did you see I'm wearing it?"

"I did,” Jack smiled, “and it looks just right on your finger."

"Well your Mom said it would be alright for just one night, and both my Moms agreed when I phoned them."

"It's just annoying that we cannot tell everyone my love."

"I know, but we did promise this is a secret till I'm eighteen."

"Yes," Jack looked down at the beautiful young woman reclining.


Friday 17th June

5.30 am BST

Briggens House Hotel


"Emerald should already be in the air?" Jeannie glanced at her watch as her mother slipped the ankle boots on her lifeless feet.

"She should,” Barbara said, “so let’s get you into this chair and we can hustle along the roads out to Stansted and hopefully hit no early morning traffic."

"Do you know what time Pepsi got in last night Mum?"

"To be honest,” she said as Jeannie slipped on her jacket, I'm not sure she's back yet."

"Dirty stop-out," Jeannie giggled, "I bet she had a fantastic time."

"I'd assume so," Barbara smiled as she checked out how both she and her daughter looked. "alright let's just hope no photographer at the airport is up this early looking for supermodels..."

"Top girls Mum," Jeannie giggled, "one day you'll get it right."

"I know."

"Alright," Jeannie started wheeling herself, "wagons roll."


As they crossed the lobby, Barbara said “once we’re back, some breakfast, and then Caroline and I head into Selfridges with you, Doc and Nikki.”


“While the others head into the…”


They both stopped as they looked at the minibus which was parked outside, and the message that has been spray painted onto the side.


“Who the hell did that,” Barbara said as she looked over.


“I can give you two names - the cowards,” Jeannie said quietly.  “You go and tell the front desk Mum – then we’ll get going…”




7 am BST

Stansted Airport


“I thought Heathrow was bad at this time in the morning,” Barbara said as she stood on the land side of the Arrivals gates, “but I never knew it would be so busy here…”


“Well, at least nobody seems to have noticed us,” Jeannie said as she looked at the sliding doors, and smiled as a red-haired young teenager came through.  “Hey Emerald – welcome to my old stomping grounds.”


“Good to be here,” Orion O’Ryan said as she hugged Jeannie.  The Irish model was wearing an old sweatshirt and jeans, and smiled as she looked round.  “So, where from here?”


“Back to the hotel for breakfast,” Barbara said, “and then you’ll go to the school with Grace and some of the others.”


“Doc, Nikki and I have to head into London, but we’ll be back in the afternoon – but with any luck, Pepsi will be back as well.”


“Oh – and where has the future Marchioness of Ordford been?”


“A Ball…”



8 am BST

Briggens House Hotel



“Is that fresh coffee?”


“Good morning Barbara,” Grace said as she looked up from the breakfast table, “how was your early morning drive?”


“I found what we were looking for,” Barbara said with a smile as Orion came in with Jeannie.


“Hey everyone,” she said as she looked round, “is that a cooked breakfast I smell?”


“It certainly is,” Grace said as she greeted the young Irish model with a kiss on the cheek, “sit and have some of it, we’ll get some coffee for you.”


“Great – I’m running on adrenaline and coffee for most of today,” Orion said as she saw the other girls come in.


“Well, now I know we’re in for a fun weekend,” Doc said with a smile as she hugged the new arrival, “Jeannie bring you up to speed on what’s happening?”


“Enough – thanks for being my body double Nikki.  So what have you lot been up to while I have been studying?”


“Studying – and watching some tennis,” Ama said as she poured herself some coffee.


“Ah, there you are Orion,” Rose said as she came in, “your aunt called me in the hotel last night.   I’m to keep a close eye on you today.”


“Oh deep joy,” Orion said as she shook her head, “and?”


“Wouldn’t be the first time I ignored a request…”


Orion grinned as Pepsi and Ama sat with Caroline.


“Sarah told me last night – the plan is you come over, play her team here and a team at Roedean, and then go to the school at Lausanne to play there.”


“In one week?  Some trip – and all while the new Freshmen come in?”


“Indeed – but that is the only time that works for all the schools…”



"Orion,” Barbara said as the young redhead cut into a sausage, “did you bring your school uniform?"

"I did Aunt Barb,” she said as she looked over the table, “but are you sure I need to...."

"Orion you are going to get noticed anyway, but at least in uniform you'll not stand out quite as much."

"Alright," the Irish girl pretended to pout.  "So what will they have me wearing?"

"You'll see," Nikki said as she ate her All-Bran, “the girl designing them has fit them reasonably well on me, but she'll enjoy having you to finish them on."

"Orion do the nuns allow you to wear makeup at school?" Grace asked.

"No Palomino...sorry I mean Mrs Brand."

"Well at Downwood we let girls wear a little."

"I'll show you how much in a bit Em," Jeannie winked.  As she looked to the door, she said “and what time do you call this to come back?”


“In time to change,” Pepsi said with a grin as she stood in her dress, “we’ve already eaten before we headed off.  Hey Orion – I see you made it over.”


“Yeah – and how was your ball?”


“Dreamy,” Pepsi said with a smile as she walked off, the girls looking at each other and giggling as she carried the roses in her arms.


“How was it really,” Harriet asked Mandy as she and Will sat down.


“Truly a magical evening, darling,” Mandy drawled as she poured some coffee, “the roses were from Simon Leventhal’s mother.”


“Really?  That was nice of her…”


“Right then,” Caroline said, “time you girls got ready.  Jeannie, you help Orion – we have a car coming to pick five of us up at ten, and the other go to the school before that.”




9.30 am CET

Munich International Airport


Abby stretched and yawned as she waited by the luggage belt, and then smiled as she picked up her case and put it on the trolley.  She already had her camera bag hanging over the handles, and once the case was on she placed the bag carefully on the top.


It had been a good flight, and the stewards on the plane had taken exceptionally good care of her, so she had no cause for complaint.  The only question now was whether or not there was a gauntlet for her to run once she had cleared customs.


“Well – showtime,” she whispered to herself as she adjusted her jacket, covering her Angels hoodie.  She looked like a typical backpacking teenager – jeans, ankle boots, glasses and her blonde hair pulled back.  Smiling, she started to push the trolley through the Customs check, and then into the welcoming area.


As she looked round, nobody was paying her any attention – until she heard a young voice say “Auntie Abby!”


“Hey there,” she said as she saw Judith running over, and picked her up in her arms, “are you enjoying your vacation, Judith?”


“Yes – I’ve been widing horses, and Mommy has been wowing on the wiver.”


“I have at that,” Carina said as she and Juliette came over.  “How was the flight Stick?”


“I coped – and they took good care of me,” Abby said as she greeted both of them.  “So how do we get to the townhouse?”


“The car’s outside,” Carina said as Juliette took the trolley, and Abby took Judith’s hand, “come along…”


9.30 am BST

Downwood School


A number of the students were arriving for their exams as the minibus drew up, and Harriet and Sarah got out, followed by Caroline and the girls in their red jackets – and one other.


"Is that really her?" one of the boys asked as the tall redhead in the green school uniform looked round.

"It is," another boy gulped, "that I'd live to see Orion O'Ryan at Downwood."

"Well I don't see anything special," a girl said a trifle jealously, "in that uniform she looks rather ordinary."

"Kelly you need your eyes examining," the first boy sighed, "she's a goddess in human form."


“Welcome to the school,” Ama said as she looked at Orion, “Jeannie may have talked it up a bit.”


Virginia Hooper smiled as the party made their way in.


“Welcome, welcome all of you – and you must be Orion.  It’s a great honour for us that you would agree to walk tomorrow.”


“It’s my pleasure,” Orion said in her light accent, “so, show me what we have…”



10 am BST

Lancaster Gate


"Where's the boss Hannah?" Peri asked as she looked into the side office.

"She had a couple of appointments at Xavier's,” Hannah said as she looked over from her desk, “she'll be here in time for lunch."

"Alright this will have to keep till then."

"What will?"

"Some things Frankfurt need her to check, some purchases authorisations, usual stuff." Peri scanned her notes.

"So nothing urgent urgent."

"Nah as I said, it can wait till after lunch."

"Coffee girls," Betty called out as she brought a tray in.


“Thanks Betty,” Peri said, “hey – can I ask you a question?”


“Of course, Peri.”


“This referendum thing – where do you stand on it?”


“Well,” the housekeeper said, “if truth be told, I voted back then to join the EEC as it was then – but the EU is not that organization, and we never really got the chance to say yes or no to the changes.  It was left to the Westminster lot – and we were abroad at the time, so it never really crossed our minds.”


“But now?”


“My business, young one – you make up your own mind.”


10.30 am BST

Xavier International


“I must say,” Agnes said as she and Shirley walked into her top floor office, “I am impressed.  Very impressed indeed.  You’ve done well to build this public face.”


“Well, when I decided to do this two years ago, I knew I had to have the right public face – after all, Shirley Xavier had stayed in the background for many years,” she said with a smile.  "There is someone I'd like you to meet Agnes."

"Oh whom," the economist looked round.

"This lady," Shirley smiled again as Angela ushered in a very tall blonde haired woman in a knee length dress and fitted jacket. "Dr Agnes McAdam, meet the Marchesa Francesca di Cambrello."

"It's an honour," Agnes said as she stood and they shook hands.

"Well it's lovely to meet you Dr McAdam," Francesca looked puzzled for a second before she said “Forgive me, but…”.

"I know, I don't look like I'm supposed to," Agnes laughed, "but when I'm off duty I like to relax, and these shoes," she indicated," are so much more comfortable then very high stilettos.”

"Agreed.  Forgive my ill manners."

"Please sit down both of you," Shirley indicated..."Coffee? Tea Agnes?"

"Please Madame."

"I'll take that fine coffee of yours Shirley," Francesca said as she adjusted her dress.

"If you would, Angela?"

"Yes Madame," the PA said as she slipped out of the office.

"So you are the notorious Lady D'eath?" Francesca asked as she tried to evaluate the other woman.

"For my sins," Agnes smiled as Angela brought in the drinks.  “So, you are little Charlotte’s mother?”


“I see you read the papers.”


“Some of the – clients I have, it pays to be au fait with current affairs,” Agnes said with a smile as she sipped her tea.


"Agnes can be totally trusted with any secret Francesca."

"So her reputation says,” Francesca said, “and is that a hint Shirley?"

"Yes,” Shirley nodded, “you know her other identity, I'd like to tell her yours please?"

"Well I suppose so, as you say her reputation as a keeper of secrets is universally known."

"The Marchesa has a secret?"

"She does Agnes. Did you ever hear of 'Il Pesce Diavolo'?"

"Of course...oh...It is indeed an honour then Marchesa."

"Francesca is not quite the woman she has had the world believe for a number of years."


“You mean the Idiot Admiral?  I had wondered from time to time,” Agnes said with a smile.  “I had seen your name recently in connection to the work of the Baroness Manschenn.”


“Indeed,” Francesca said, “Sigi has been good enough to take me on as a partner in her law consultancy firm.”


“Well, things change,” Agnes said with a smile.  “I know of your work - some of my clients can be so indiscrete…”





"Did I hear that Madame has Francesca and Agnes McAdam in with her Lily?"

"She has Penny...” Lily said as she stood at the coffee machine, “and isn't that an interesting trio to have in the same room."

"Yes," Penny knitted her brows, "I wonder what they are talking about?"

"Or who?" Lily replied.

"As you say Lil...Who?"




"Let's be honest no one really cares about these street kids, and the hard core runaways," Agnes paused. "As long as they don't mess the nice views up for the tourists in the West End begging, people lump them all together as incorrigible, lazy, shiftless, druggies, who are worthless pieces of barely human shit."

"That's harsh Agnes."

"But it’s true Shirley, just as it is all over the world."

"It's certainly so in Naples," Francesca nodded.

"You know I'd have quit the dungeon business after I had to fire Penny if it wasn't for the fact I need money to help reach and support at least some of the kids."

"Are their backgrounds usually similar Agnes?"

"Yes," the dominatrix nodded, "they are the victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, all the other nasty things society prefers to forget. But mainly they are just the plain unloved who have never known true affection at any time. I can only help a tiny proportion, but for all that's ever been said about Lady D'eath, no one can ever say I turned away a child in need without doing something to try and help."

"You should start a proper charity Agnes," Francesca said quietly.

"Oh no," Agnes shook her head, "If I was a proper charity the kids would stay away, they are afraid of anything that even remotely smells like the authorities. As I said these are the hard core kids, those who will always runaway again if sent back to where they came from."

"Why do they come to London?"

"Because they have the idea that this is a city still paved with gold. They come here hoping to get a better life, and most never ever even sniff it. What with drugs, booze, predators of all kinds, many of those kids never survive to get out of their teens. The councils find the bodies and quietly bury them, it's one less piece of crap for them to worry about."

"You sound bitter Agnes."

"Damn right I am Marchesa."


“Then we must do what we can to support you,” Shirley said quietly, “and I would ask you to help as well Francesca.”


Noon CET

The Furstenheim Townhouse, Munich



"This is nice," Abby said as she stretched out on the chair, "plenty of room even for women as tall as us Aunt Ju..."

"Yeah rub it in why don't you," Cari laughed.

"Well runt or not, your career is a success Cari," Abby grinned. "Which reminds me I have the new edition of Paper for you in my bag with that spread you did for them."

"Is it any good?' Cari asked.

"Since when does Antonio Bell ever take a bad picture?"

"That is true," Carina smiled.

"On a different tack,” Abby said as she handed Cari the magazine, “what is this I hear about Janine?"

"Oh yes, somehow the press over here has cottoned on to the relationship between her and Henri." Juliette laughed softly.

"How is she taking the attention?"

"Not very well," Carina said as she cuddled Judith, "she's never had to deal with paparazzi before."

"I'll tell her she's joined the club then," Abigail giggled.


“Forgive the interruption, Princess Carina,” Frau Strecher said as she stood at the door, “but you asked to be informed when your friends returned.”


“Oh yeah – time to meet your subjects Abs,” Carina said as she put Judith down, and waited for Abby to stand up and follow her to the kitchen.


“Hey you two,” she said as she saw them at the table, “mid-morning snack?”


“Funny Specs, real funny…”


"So Abs meet Molly and Kelsey, and this is what they do best." Carina laughed at the eating rowers.

"Well they need all the energy." Abby smiled, "I'm Abigail," she continued as she extended a hand.

"Nice to meet you," the girls took it in turn to shake.

"And you don't know how hard they've been rehearsing this so as not to appear overawed," Carina laughed.

"Well…  It’s not every day you meet Abigail de Ros the super supermodel."

"Kelsey this summer I'm not the model I'm just another student working on a college project, so PLEASE just call me Abby..."

"Or she will answer to Stick as well," Carina laughed again.

"Just how tall are you Abby?" Kelsey asked.

"Oh close to six feet two."

"Well we are both just over six feet, it’s amazing to be looking upwards at another woman."

"Did you ever consider rowing?"

"With muscles like these?" Abigail flexed her arm.

"I guess not," Molly shook her head.


1 pm BST

Downwood School


"Hey Em,” Doc said as Orion came into the room they were using, “want some coffee?"

"Please BS," the Irish girl said as she sat down.

"So opinions?"

"I've worn things by so-called top designers that were a lot worse."

"And a lot worse made," Rose sat down with her tea, "Ella understands how to construct a garment pretty well."

"Well all these budding designers are saying only the nicest things about you Aunt Rose."

"They are? Despite me sometimes tearing their things apart?"

"Rose you are only trying to help them be better," Grace joined the chat. "Kids appreciate being told what they are doing wrong...and more importantly how to do it better."

"Be gone with ya." Rose blushed.

"On a different subject Jeans, it looks like the weather will be wonderful for the school fete tomorrow."

"Yeah I heard on the radio. It's strange enough coming here, but my old primary school it's going to be even weirder."

"Since when you were there you could walk Jeannie?" Orion asked.

"That's part of it," Jeannie nodded.  “And…  Well, I’ll worry about that tomorrow.”


“So how was Selfridges?”


“Busy – but fun,” Nikki said with a smile.





1.30 pm BST

Xavier International


As Penny came into the lobby, she stopped short as she saw four women sitting in the leather armchairs, three wearing summer dresses while the other wore a jumper and smart trousers.


One of them, a tall blonde, saw her and stood up, the others following her example.


"Bobbie, Kay, Jane, Sue, what the hell are you all doing here?" Penny hissed as she came over.

"We were summoned by Madame." Kay kissed her old friend as they hugged.

"We thought you might know why Penny?" Jane asked.

"Not a clue," Penny shook her head.  “This is a surprise to me as well.”

"So are you keeping busy?" Sue asked.

"Tolerably.  The job keeps me entertained."

"And how are things with Helen?"

"Brilliant,” Penny said with a smile as the lift doors opened, “I'll try and arrange for you all to meet her."

"Ladies if you'll follow me," Angela called over.


"Was that who I think it was?" Lily asked Penny as she came from where she had been watching.

"It was, Madame wanted to see them, things get curiouser and curiouser," Penny bit her lip trying to work out what was going on.




“May I say, it is a great honour to be invited here today Madame,” Bobbie said as she sipped her coffee.


“You’re welcome – I know Kay of course, but I do not think I have met the rest of you before.  Allow me to complement you on your careers.”


“Thank you – but why have you called us all here today?”


"Kay,” Shirley said quietly as she put her cup down, “I wish to ask a question that no woman in our profession should ask, but I'm trying to understand Penelope rather better than I seem to have in the past."

"Ah you've seen the hidden Penny?" Kay said as she lifted an eyebrow.

"Indeed – on several occasions.  I had no idea such a dangerous and violent woman lurked inside her...I take it you did?"

Looking at Jane and Sue, Kay waited until they nodded before she said "Yes Madame."

"She told me that it was you who dreamed up the silence as a control mechanism on her."

"I did," Kay nodded.

"Please Kay,” Shirley said quietly, “as her friend can you tell me about those early times for the Dolls?...PLEASE?"

For a second Kay hesitated, but when Madame X asked you such a question and with clear concern in her tone, then truth was the only option.

"Well Madame I think it started like this...  Penny wanted to start to hit bigger targets, and we had become friends at the time.  Sue and I were working girls, but knew Penny through other girls – and the fact she was even then known to work for Lady D’Eath.  She asked if we wanted to earn some money – and that she had an idea of how to do it.


“We started, as you know, with post offices and the like – we wore balaclavas and boiler suits then, and padded our chests to look like men.  Then she said she had another idea – to use recorded messages and written instructions instead."


"What was your cover back then girls?"

"Oh people thought we were just three young girls sharing a suburban semi."

"Perfectly normal looking."

"Yes,” Sue said, “we would leave in the morning and come home at night, I think everyone just assumed we commuted into town."

"Well Penny was," Kay noted, "she was still doing regular shifts at Lady D'eath's place."

"And the two of you?" Shirley asked.


“Still working girls then,” Kay said, “although as time went on, I quit and went to work as an admin assistant.”


“I quit at the same time,” Sue said, “I got a job with Margot Harmon at her offices – and she had some strict standards as well.”


Shirley looked at the tall brunette, and nodded.  “So it became a night job for a while?”


“That’s what they told me when I replaced Penny,” Jane said.  The redhead smiled as she adjusted her top, whole Bobbie looked round.


“And how did you join the group,” Shirley asked as she looked at the teenager?


“Honestly – a friend and I tried to rob a house, not knowing Kay and the Dolls were already there.  They tracked us down, gave us the fright of our lives – and then she asked if I wanted to join them.”


"Now if I remember you first came to my attention with that Supermarket / Security Van job." Madame remarked.

"We got over ambitious that day," Kay nodded. 

"You grabbed the manager’s kid?"

"We did – took her home and then took her mother hostage as well.  We did a Dirty Mary Crazy Larry that time – forced Mummy dearest to call her husband and tell him to hand over the money."

"Reminds me of some people I know in America," Madame mused.

"Well we didn't have their balls so to speak...'

"Penny did though," Kay shook her head, "she was quite prepared to use a gun."

"So I've heard," Shirley played with her glasses. "So tell me just what went wrong?"

"I nearly let the manager see my face as I grabbed the cash."

"Careless." Shirley lifted an eyebrow.

"I know, but that convinced me that smaller targets were going to be more our thing."

"And what did Penny think of that?"

"She agreed, but it was pretty clear, at least to me, that she had got her jollies tying up and terrorising that mother and daughter.  I knew she was beginning to blur the lines between her roles."


"Kay who was doing the job planning?"

"Well I guess at first I was, but then Penny sort of took over," Kay paused. "the calm-rational Penny had a clear eye for an opportunity, but I have to admit the 'other Penny' frightened the hell out of me."

"Penny when she let the real 'her' out,” Sue said, “was both sadistic and dangerous, she really liked hurting people.”

"Did she ever tell you that was why Agnes fired her?"

"At a later date," Kay nodded, "she said she had nearly killed a punter."


“Going back Kay you said you were both working girls?”


“Yes, like Penny had been,” Kay blushed.


“Brothels or on the street?”


“Both,” Sue nodded. “I was a runaway like Penny.  I was just a stupid kid looking for an easy way to make money.”


“Were you one of Agnes D’eath’s children Sue?”


“No Madame, I used to sleep rough down near the National Theatre, you know in the subways.”


“Cardboard City.”


“Exactly Madame.”


“Without me being too rude how old were you both when you started?”


“I was thirteen,” Sue looked at Kay.


“I started late compared to her and Penny…I was sixteen.”


“And I thought that I’d had it rough in Paris,” Madame thought to herself.


"So were you both already stealing by the time you met Penny?"

"On the streets you learn to quick," Sue spoke, "shoplifting, a little breaking and entering, I even mugged a couple of girls...I was lucky i never got caught."

"I'd rolled a few punters, but I hadn't really done more than that." Kay replied as well.

"So neither of you ran with a gang?"

"No," Sue shook her head.

"I asked because I know a few former White Vipers?"

"From out Tottenham way?" Kay asked.


"I've heard of them but no I never knew any gangs."

"Yes she's Miss Posh don't you know?” Sue laughed, "from Surbiton."

"And you Sue?"



“I’m local,” Bobbie said as she looked at Jane.  The brunette teenager rubbed her head as she said “I was a bit of a rough piece of work at school – nothing serious, not drugs or anything, just some break-ins with my mate.  Then we did a steam through on that one house – and that night they came calling on me.”


“And what about you Jane?”


“Actually, I’m a bit like Kay – I come from Reading, and worked on the legit side for Margot – at first.  I knew there was a shadier side, and slowly moved over to that side, and then Sue and Kay took me out to Chinatown one night, and – the rest you know.”

Looking at Kay, Shirley said "Not many girls from Surbiton end up on the game?"

"I know Madame,” Kay said with a smile, “believe it or not I used to go home on the late train every night, my parents thought I had a job in an office that opened and closed late."

"Did they ever find out?"

"Yeah after a year and then they threw me out, we haven't spoken since...I was an idiot like I said, if I hadn't been greedy for cash...Oh well water under the bridge," Kay sighed.

"She was lucky...she had a home, My Mum dumped me on Social Services and i was in and out of foster homes till I ran away that last time."

"I'm sorry Sue...and what of your mother?"

"She found a bad fix, cut with rat poison," Sue shrugged her shoulders, "By that time I'd forgotten what she even looked like."


"So how did you all meet?" 

"Sue and I were both on staff at the Eight-Oh," Kay answered.

"Penny was alternating working at Lady D'eath's and working odd bits at Madame Oliver's."

"Two very famous brothels...that I forced closed," Madame smiled.

"That was after our time," Sue replied, "and yeah I understand why, they were both exploiting young girls something rotten."

"Not that we knew that at the time, we were both grateful for the regular income," Kay continued, "even if it was only 33% of what the house was charging."

"We used to relax after work at the old Ming Dragon."

"In Wardour Street Sue?"

"Yes,” the young woman said, “then one night when we’re having a meal, Penny came in with a couple of girls we'd worked with, and we got to chatting with her."

"She had had a few too many and told us about her little 'sideline'. I guess Sue and I listened because over the next few days we talked about it..."

"And then we ran into Penny again at the Cockspur and we started asking her serious questions."


"I think we both thought Penny was a bit insane at first," Sue shook her head.
"Of course we soon found out that she was a lot insane." 

"She already was then Kay?"

"Yes,” Kay said quietly, “she wanted revenge on the world. and she wanted to hurt people..."

"Really badly." Sue interrupted. "But getting back to Penny's idea, I think we both thought there was no way we could wave shooters around, threaten people..."

"And pull armed robberies," Kay interrupted back, "but the more we talked..."

"The more we thought..."

"The more we realised what the life expectancy was on a teenage whore..."

"And that we'd probably end up doing hard stuff one day..."

"And really is there anything more pathetic than an old tart still trying to pull punters?"

"So we decided we'd try one job," Sue smiled.

"Penny knew someone who knew someone, who knew someone, and she got the guns. I knew a nice little sub post office near Hampton Court."

"And after binding our chests..."

"And a few stiff drinks we did it." Kay shook her head. "I'm still not sure how I had the bottle."


"Some more coffees Angela," Shirley said as she nodded and pressed a button on her intercom.

"Yes Madame."

"Before we continue Madame, can I ask if you know who the three women who have been pimping us in New York are?" asked Bobbie.

"Actually I do,” Shirley said, “and I know they are sorry that they've had to resort to doing so a couple of times.  Be assured, on both occasions they replicated your approach completely."

"Well they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Sue smiled.

"Do we actually maybe know them in any way?" Bobbie asked as Pamela brought the fresh drinks in.

"Oh they do have a certain notoriety in their own right," Madame smiled and laughed softly.

"In a feline way?" Kay laughed.

"Now you know just as I'd never reveal who you are, then I owe them the same consideration."

"We understand Madame," Bobbie sipped her coffee.


“So,” Shirley said, “you established yourselves, but how did the idea for the China Dolls come round, and how did you manage to get Penny to do what you did?”


“Ah, yes,” Kay said with a smile.  “Well, we did a few jobs, and then one night we were round at Penny’s flat at the time.  We’d been discussing a job which would involve hitting the family of a jewel merchant’s, and decided to take a break by watching a film she had just bought.”


“Knowing Penny’s taste in entertainment, I shudder to think,” Shirley said quietly.


“It was Ringu,” Sue said, “and as we watched the big reveal, I joked about what would happen if we stayed quiet during the raid.”


“Penny laughed at the idea,” Kay said, “but I realised there was some merit to the idea, knowing just how sacred I was watching that film.  I picked up the research Penny had done, and saw that in addition to the business interests of the man, he had a collection of Porcelain dolls.


“So I said ‘why don’t we do this as a silent robbery?’  In the supermarket job and others, we’d used recorded messages and pieces of paper, so it seemed to be the next logical step.”


“I remember Penny sitting there, staring at Kay,” Sue said, “and then she simple said ‘but how can I have my fun?  I need to be able to give expression to what I am doing…”


“What followed is not repeatable,” Sue said, “but I could see Kay getting more and more upset – and then she grabbed Penny and handgagged her.  Penny’s eyes shot open and she shut up – and that was when Kay said we were going to do this, we were going to do it her way, and she was going to make sure Penny kept damn quiet.”


Nodding, Shirley said “and this jeweller?”


“Lived in Nottingham – I found out he and his wife were going away, leaving their teenage daughter at home, so we decided to hit in the first weekend of Nottingham.  We went and bought grey bodysuits in a theatre supply shop, as well as gloves and ankle boots, and also bought these white doll masks.  I remember sitting in the van outside the house in the Mapperley area, and tearing off the strip of micropore tape before I pressed it over Penny’s lips.


“We went in – the daughter was there, with a friend, and they were dressed to go to the big fair they have in Nottingham that weekend.  Penny had taught us how to do a lotus tie, so we bound their arms, then their legs, and gagged them – as well as a friend who turned up.”


“And Penny?”


“I was watching her as she bound the girls – we could not see her eyes, but somehow the fact she was not able to speak was helping her to subdue, cope with the other side of her.”


“What helped,” Sue said quietly, “was that the way we acted – always silent, using hand gestures alongside the guns we carried, scared the three girls so much we had completely compliant hostages.  So we stole the jewels in the house, and I left a message I had typed up to thank them for their cooperation before we walked back to the van in the dark.


“When we were in, we pulled the hoods down, removed the masks and I peeled the tape away from Penny’s mouth,” Kay said, “and we watched to see what she would do.”


“So what did she do?”


“She laughed,” Sue said, “she laughed more than she had done for some time, and said it had been a brilliant idea.  Somehow, we had stumbled on a way of doing robberies that worked for us.”


Shaking her head, Shirley smiled as she said “so that was when she really began to subsume the other her?”


“For a while – but then we had the attempt to rob a home business, and the security guard who surprised us had his own firearm.  It’s the only time we had to use our guns as the Dolls – Penny wounded him, but not before he shot her in the arm.  She went wild, kicking him as he lay there, before Sue and I managed to drag her off.


“After that job, we went to one of the doctors Penny knew to get her treated – and she swore she was never going to let that person out again.  She also looked at us, and said it was time for her to retire from the field, and we’d need to find a new member.”


“Which is when Sue approached me,” Jane said.  “The first time I joined them was when we kidnapped that journalist – remember, we forced her to help rob her editor?”


“Oh yeah,” Kay said, “that was a fun night, and we knew then how we were going to be working from then on.”


“And, if I may ask, how do you keep silent now?”


“Practice,” Kay said with a smile.  “At any rate, Penny soon joined your organization, and the rest, as they say, is history.”


Nodding, Shirley said “Well, that does answer a few questions…”


“May I ask,” Kay said, “what brought the other Penny back?”


“I think it was a combination of things,” Shirley said, “she never really went away, but was buried.  Then we helped take down that slaver ring in New York, something stirred again in her.  There is, however, one major difference between now and then – Helen.  She found a kindred spirit – did you know she actually flew to where Helen lives in Hong Kong recently when events threatened to tear them apart?”


“Wow,” Sue said, “we really do have to meet this woman.”


“I am sure Penny will arrange that,” Shirley said with a smile.  “Well, thank you for sharing that – perhaps I can repay the favour by inviting you to tour our premises?  I’m sure Penny would be happy to oblige…”



2 pm BST

Lancaster Gate


“Sorry I am late,” Francesca said as she came in to find Peri and Hannah talking.


"So how did things go at Aldwych Francesca," Peri asked as she looked up from her desk.

"Fine,” Francesca said as she poured a coffee, “Shirley and I had a productive meeting, and then she introduced me to an old acquaintance of hers."

"Anyone important?" Hannah asked.

"Only if you think so when I tell you she got a large amount of money out of me."

"She did?" Peri looked surprised.

"Yes," Francesca smiled, "but not in a bad way. This friend of Shirley's runs a sort of support group and school for runaway children. We both agreed to make a substantial donation to help her."

"Oh you met Agnes," Peri took a turn to smile.

"And how do you know that Peri?"

"I'm one of her graduates you might say."

"Ah,” Francesca said, “that would explain a couple of things she said."

"You were a runaway Peri?" Hannah asked.

"Yeah - my Mom's new boyfriend was trying to molest me, so it was goodbye to Stevenage, hello to the West End. Agnes found me dumpster diving in Soho and took me in."

"That's horrible Peri."

"Well it could have been worse,” Peri said as she stepped back, “it was Agnes who eventually got me to go to college and study business studies, and well from that I eventually got to Xavier's...and now I'm here."

"Thank God," Francesca hugged her PA, "I ought to have written Agnes a larger cheque then."



3 pm CET

The Furstenheim Townhouse


“Hmmm…  Okay,” Abby said as she stood at a table and looked at the screen, while Judith watched Molly and Kelsey finish their workout, “I’ve downloaded some of my photos that I just took.  Come and have a look.”


"These aren't bad Abs," Carina nodded approval as she looked at the screen.

"Yeah,” Abby said with a smile, “for an impromptu shoot I'm quite pleased with the results." 

"I like the one of Molly especially on the machine,” Carina said, “and you can see the beads of sweat, and that set to her lips."

"Can I look," Judith asked as she tugged on her mother’s trousers.

"Let me show you little one," Molly said as she lifted her up. "Is that really what I look like when I'm doing that."

"The camera doesn't lie," Abby said contentedly.

"That is weally good," Judith pronounced her opinion.

"I think we all agree," Kelsey wiped her face with a towel.

"Now you are just being kind," Abby blushed.  “I think we made a good start – but the fun comes when we get out on the water.  For today, however, I’m content…”




10 am

Columbia University, 116th Street and Broadway


As Jo took her seat in the lecture room, she looked at her boyfriend and asked a question that had bothered her since he had called the night before.


"Curt,” she said as she looked at him in his jacket, slacks and shirt, “you know I love you, but can you explain why I'm using a rare Friday morning that I have off from other things to go listen to a lecture?"

"Well because I want to hear this crackpots theories in person,” Clint said as she started to count off on his fingers, “also that as a budding criminologist yourself I thought you might get a laugh from it as well, but mainly with you modelling we get far too little time actually together,'" he leaned over and kissed Jo.

"Alright, that last thing I can agree with."

"I thought you might."

"So what is this guy’s ‘crackpot theory’ as you put it?"

"Oh it’s a dilly," Curt rolled his eyes, "he actually believes there is a genetic problem that predisposes some women to become serial killers."

"Well I've heard worse," Joanne shook her head.

"Yes, but this lunatic believes that it is hereditary, and just like hemophilia can crop up in people with a common ancestress...Did you ever hear anything so stupid?" Curt laughed.

"No," Jo gave a nervous laugh as well. "What's his evidence?"

"Oh basically that because the Blood Prinicess, Hildegard of Furstenheim, and the Beast of Belsen, Birgitte von Furstenheim were related, if centuries apart, then he thinks that it proves a connection, especially as both descended from Elizabeth Bathory...Did you ever hear such rubbish?"

"No," Jo was fighting hard to decide what she should do or say.  “I wonder how on earth he is going to back up that conclusion?”


“Exactly – should be fun,” Curt said as he looked round, “I wonder who else is coming?”


Jo nodded as she looked back.  "That's Gale Callaghan," Jo thought to herself, recognizing the woman in the back row despite her blonde wig and her large sunglasses. "Is there anyone else here I know?"

Slowly and discreetly Jo scanned the small audience looking for familiar faces.

"Well I can scratch both Cari and Natalya, they are both in Germany," Jo tried to penetrate any disguises with her eyes, and then saw one person she recognized.

"Now what are you doing here big sister?" Jo smiled when she recognized a heavily disguised Heather sitting in a corner, "I thought you said you were spending the day researching at the Public Library?  And – that’s Sharon Kennedy.  Why would she be here?"


He thoughts were interrupted as a man stood at the front and said “Ladies and Gentlemen – your speaker for today, Doctor David Pardoe of the University of Manchester.”


She joined in the polite applause as the grey haired man came forward and said “thank you – and thank you for coming to hear my presentation of today.  The notion of a serial killer, a person who takes a life again and again for whatever reason, is difficult enough to comprehend at times, and history has presented a few.  Many theories have been postulated as to what drives people to do this – but a recent research cooperation, in tandem with the disgraced film make Edwin Breitz, has led me to believe there is more to one theory than first postulated.  Namely, is evil something that is inherited, is it genetic?”


“Today I will present the findings that lead me to one possible line of inquiry to prove that – and to do that, we need to go back to Elizabeth Bathory, and in particular one of her most infamous descendants – Princess Hildegard of Furstenheim, the Blood Princess.”


As the doctor gave the background, Jo glanced over to see Heather, Gale and Sharon all taking notes.  “What the hell is going on,” she said as she stated to pay attention.


“It was thought Elizabeth died childless – but there are legends that say this is not the case, and she had sons and daughters.  Let me show you a few pictures," Pardoe pressed a clicker and the face of a Victorian era woman appeared on the screen.

"Lucy Ward-Miller, by day London debutante, by night I contend the female Jack the Ripper."

"Varvara Kelnakinova," the picture of a late 18th century woman appeared, “some called her 'the demon of St Petersburg’, we know before she was discreetly strangled on the Emperor Paul's instructions she had killed at least nineteen people."

"Marian Aschenburg… Black Betty Gaunt…  Lise von Hatshausen,"he flipped through pictures, "all proven or suspected mass killers, and I contend related as descendants of Bathory via Hildegard of Furstenheim.  And, of course, we know of one confirmed descendant who was a sadistic serial killer – the Beast of Belsen, Birgitte von Furstenheim."


He pressed the clicker again, and showed a picture of the Nazi war criminal.  “Recent evidence has suggested she was more than just a sadistic killer, but the facts of her wartime atrocities cannot be denied – and she was a blood descendant.  In that case, and if it can be proven there were others, then…”



4.30 pm

Xavier International


“Well, I guess that’s it – the centre of my work life now,” Penny said as she stood in the reception area with her friends.  "Listen - do you girls have anything planned for tomorrow?"

"We might have?' Jane replied suspiciously.  “Why do you ask?”

"Okay I don't want to know, but if it’s in the evening do you want to spend the day at my cottage meeting Helen?  She flew in yesterday."

"That sounds fun, and yes I think we can fit that in." Kay smiled.

"Good.  Kay knows how to get to my place – down the M3 and off at Fleet."





“We had a long talk with Madame," Sue whispered, "I thought you had buried 'her'."

"I did too, but in a crisis out she popped," Penny shrugged her shoulders.


"I think I had to at least acknowledge her existence, I found out suppressing her was as psychologically damaging as letting her lose."

"And is the...compulsion...still as strong."

"It is Sue," Penny paused and closed her eyes, "but I think that if I remain self aware I can at least channel what's inside me."

"Not let her be in control all the time."

"No Bobbie,” Penny said with a smile.  “It's funny - Agnes said yesterday she'd love to see me dom someone again, but as I told her, I do that I'm just going to end up killing some poor masochist."


“And you know this because…”


“Let’s just say when she has appeared, it’s not nice,” Penny said quietly.  “Right – I’ll see you all tomorrow at lunchtime.  Enjoy your evening.”


As she turned and walked to the lift, Sue said “What do you think Kay?”


“Oh she’s certainly in control – and she knows not to put herself in a position by choice where she would lose control.  We can only pray she never gets forced into a corner and she loses it then…”






11 am

Nessa Richmond’s apartment


“Thank you,” Glenda Verducci said as she accepted the coffee cup, and she looked over at Nessa, wearing a white silk jumper and designer pants.


“So how are things in Chicago,” Nessa said as she sipped her coffee.


“I cannot complain,” Glenda said, “Todd did well this year, and business is good.  You?”


“Well, life is – interesting, but all I always wanted it to be.”


Glenda smiled – a sad smile – and said "Nessa I've heard of the dreadful things your parents did to you.”


“That is in the past…”


"Still… I'm so glad that you finally are just what you want to do...and a hit record yet!"

"Thank you Glenda," Nessa blushed, "I must admit that for the first time since that awful party I am actually enjoying my life."

"Good," Glenda smiled.  "Would it shock you though to know another secret about your parents?"

"You know a family secret Glenda?" Nessa found herself leaning forward.

"Yes," Glenda let a couple of tears come as she put her cup down, "I swore to myself, and to Rusty I would never tell anyone else this, but I think it’s important that you know, since in many ways you turned out to be the true victim."

"How?" Nessa asked in a hesitating tone.

"You know you ended up having to run the Richmond Trust?"


"You know why?"

"Of course I do - because my brother chose to enter the priesthood."

"You know why he chose the priesthood?"

"I know the reasons he tells the world,” Nessa said quietly, “but I also suspect you choosing Rusty over him was the main reason."

"I've always thought so," Glenda let a couple of tears come again.

"So Glenda?"

"What I'm about to say never passed my lips, and I'll deny ever saying it if I hear it back Vanessa."

"Alright, so what's so important?"

"Your father paid me to reject Alex and to chose Rusty..."

"HE DID WHAT!" Nessa screamed as she stood up, and then sat back down again.

"He and your Mother came to see me one Saturday in my senior year while the football team were playing away, and your father made various offers and threats to induce me to not go with Alex, even though I was deeply in love with him by that time."

"Father did what?" Nessa tried to regain some of her cool.

"He threatened to get my father fired from his job, he also said he could ensure Rusty was never going to be able to play in the NFL, and you know how important that was to Rusty?"

"I do," Nessa nodded, this was sounding just like her father's style.

"If I said yes, then the mortgage on my parents place would suddenly be paid off, there'd be college scholarships for my brothers and sisters, and a large cash amount for me...  And I'm not making that up Nessa, it’s the honest truth, your parents despite the fact I was a pageant queen refused to let your brother marry what they considered a 'mid-western nobody'." Glenda started crying truly hard.

"Glen, I know you aren't lying," Nessa put her arms round the other woman, "it really is just what my folks would do.  I know what they were capable of, after all…"


There was a knock on the door as the maid came in.


“My apologies Miss Richmond, you have another visitor.”


“Please, show them in Mary.”


"Mr. Luke Heller Madame," the maid announced.

"Luke," Nessa stood up and allowed him to kiss her on both cheeks, "and to what do I owe this pleasure?"

"Jack has me playing errand boy," Luke smiled as he waved a thin portfolio, "the proofs for the Ness and the Monsters CD covers and notes."

"Well thank you," Nessa smiled, "by the way have you met an old friend of mine?...this is Glenda Verducci from Chicago."

"I think I've met your grandson Mrs Verducci," Luke said as he kissed her on the cheek, "Todd isn't it?"

"That's him," Glenda nodded.  “Where did you meet him?”


“At a club earlier this year,” Luke said with a smile.  "Well I really must be going..."

"Oh I'm sure you have time for a cup of tea Luke, I never met an Englishman who didn't."

"Well I am a little parched," Luke looked at his watch, "so alright."

"Good," Nessa chuckled as he sat down, and accepted a cup.

"So Mr Heller,” Glenda said, “what do you do?"

"I'm Jack Linklater's assistant..."

"He's being modest Glen,” Nessa said with a smile.  “Luke is becoming a very well-known photographer in his own right, he shot the last St. Angela's calendar."

"The one where the models almost look like they've been drawn rather than photographed Mr Heller?"

"Yes," Luke blushed, "and please call me Luke."

"Well I'm Glenda, and I was very, very impressed.."

"And she knows what she is talking about, Glenda back in our day was a pageant queen and model, she even got a couple of Vogue covers."

"I think she still has the looks to be a model Nessa, just as I've said before you do."

"Mr Heller...I mean Luke, thank you for the compliment, but I'm in my seventies."

"Well Carmen Dell'Orefice is in her eighties and I could have sworn it’s her that Jack is photographing for Vanity Fair today."

"Ah but Carmen is an exception," Vanessa smiled.

"Maybe, but I would really love to photograph both of you."

"We will think about it Luke," Nessa smiled again as she saw the doubt in Glenda's eyes.

"Are you both free tomorrow?"


“That soon?”


“He who hesitates is lost – shall we say here at ten?”




2 pm

The Richmond Mansion


Heather looked up as Jo came into the kitchen.  “Nice lunch with Clint?”


“Yeah,” Jo said as she slipped her jacket off.  "Enjoy the lecture Big Sis?"

"What lecture?"

"Heather you can't bluff me,” Jo said as she sat down, “you don't even think that I can't spot my own sister even if you are disguised?"

"Alright...but why were you there?"

"Curt wanted to hear him speak, he thinks he's a crackpot."

"While we of course know better?"

"Exactly, but how could I tell him that I know that?"

"You can't Jo, so just keep your mouth shut."

"I was planning to.  Is that coffee fresh?"

“Yeah,” Heather said as she poured a cup for her sister.  "I'm going to speak to Carina later, tell her and Valeria the bad news."

"Might be wise," Jo nodded, "now tell me what both Gale Callaghan and Sharon were doing there?"

"Honestly? Being living proof that he's correct in his theory."

"OH! so they are both also..."


"Interesting...Hmmm do you know any other descendants of Hildegard?"


Heather merely raised an eyebrow…




7.30 pm BST

Penny’s flat


"So your friends my they have their own partners?" Helen asked as they loaded the car.

"Last I heard Kay was seeing this bloke who works on the Stock Exchange.”  Penny put her bag in the boot and thought for a moment.  “Sue was married briefly before the cunt she married somehow found out she'd been a pro. It'll take a really special guy to ever get inside her defences ever again. Bobbie flits from boy to boy, and well Jane is like us."

"Does she have a regular girlfriend?"

"Not this year,” Penny said as she closed the boot, “she had a big domination breakup with a girl called Lyndsey round Christmas time."

"There's wasn't a partnership of equals like ours?"

"No, Jane pretty much wants to be boss in her relationships," Penny opened the car door. "Alright darling the joys of the M3 await us."


“You make it sound like a pleasure cruise.”


“Engaging sarcasm mode,” Penny said as they both got in, and she drove off.






“Was it as bad for you as it sounded when you were talking to Agnes last night?”


Penny turned onto the main road, and said “yeah – remember, I was barely thirteen, run away from home, and I knew if I was caught or turned into the authorities I would be sent straight home to a beating – or worse.  So I survived as best I could – shoplifting, petty theft, then I went on the game.”


“But were you truly alone?”


“At first,” Penny said quietly, “but I made a few close acquaintances – we’d watch out for each other – and then Agnes found me and took me into her school.  She found me a place to sleep, to at least be off the streets.”  Wiping away a tear, she continued “in many ways she was the parent I never really had.”


“I can understand that – in a way,” Helen said quietly, “I always give thanks that I had time with my mother and father efore they were taken from me.”


“Can I ask…  When your father died…”


“I was at school in Hong Kong,” Helen said as she looked out of the window.  “My father went back to his bank’s offices there when my mother died, and took me with him.  We had a happy six months, and my heart was a lot less heavy – and then he found details of a criminal group laundering funds through the bank.


“One evening, I was working in my room when I heard my father arguing with someone.  I sneaked down and saw three men – I recognised them as colleagues from his office – who were surrounding him – and then they each produced a knife and…”


Penny looked over as Helen fell silent for a moment.  “I waited until they left, and then called the police – but before I did that, I used my father’s computer to get their names and home addresses.  The police came, and I was taken to a care home – but I sneaked out, went home, ducked under the police tape, and took a knife from the kitchen.


“The next forty eight hours were when I found my calling – one by one, I tracked them down.  One by one, I waited for them to be alone, and one by one I slit their throats, watching them bleed out.  When I was done, I wiped the knife clean, and returned it home, then went back to the home.


“Two days later, I was at my father’s grave, watching his coffin as it was lowered in, friends and colleagues with me.  One of them stood next to me, and put his hand on my shoulder as I watched.  He waited with me as the others left, and then he said quietly ‘Is honour satisfied?’


“I nodded as he said ‘your father said if anything happened to him, I was to take you in and be your father.  I do not think he anticipated he would meet his end as he did – and I am certain he would not wish to know the part you played in attaining the correct retribution.’


“I turned and looked into the face of the Honoured Father, as he said ‘Come – let me teach you.’”


Penny looked at her lover and said “he knew?”


“Many years later, he told me he had someone following and watching – so he knew, and he was still ready to take me, damaged and hurting as I was.”   Looking at Penny, she said “I think Agnes was the same for you – that tentpole you needed.  The one thing she could not deal with was the anger.”


Nodding, Penny said “Yeah – that’s how the real me developed.  I know she scares me – does she scare you?”


“Not really – after all, we have a yardstick.”




“Cari,” Helen laughed as they drove along the motorway.


“Look – my friends are coming tomorrow.  Sunday – will you come with me to visit my father?  I think you need to see how he is now.”


“I would be honoured…”



9 pm BST

Briggens House Hotel


"That was a long afternoon and evening of fittings," Jeannie yawned as they sat in the lounge.

"Tell me about it," Nikki stretched, "and also remind me never to eat ‘English’ Chinese takeout again, that was horrible."

"Well I enjoyed it," Grace said as she took off her jacket.

"Me too," Rose smiled.

"Yes but you are all British anyway..."

"Hey less of the British,” Rose laughed, "I'm Irish and don't forget it."

"As am I," Orion said as she took her school jacket off, "and yeah I didn't think it was too bad.”

"You know I despair sometimes of you all," Nikki complained, "right Doc?"

"Hey leave me out of this," Anna laughed.  “It may not be the same as what we have at home, but it filled us up.”

"So darlings,” Mandy said quietly, “a fete tomorrow, then last minute preps?"

"Yes," Jeannie nodded, "and rehearsals to get my old schoolmates into the way we walk etc."

"Well your friend Parminder doesn't have a bad walk Jeans." Doc noted.

"Yeah she's not bad at all. but Cath, Liz and Ashley all need to work on it some more." Jeannie smiled again.

"So darling have you written your little speech for tomorrow?" asked Barb.

"Have I had time?" Jeans grinned, "I'll work on it in bed.  When I get there…”


“Well, an early night for everyone,” Caroline said as she looked at her phone.  “We’ll all be thankful for it in the morning.”



Saturday 18th June

6 am CET

The Furstenheim Townhouse, Munich


“Stick…  Up and at them, Stick…”


Abby slowly opened her eyes as she looked at Carina, standing by her head in the early light, and then at the clock, groaning as she did so.


"Is there really such an hour as Six O'Clock in the morning," Abby muttered as she looked through her myopic eyes, trying to focus on Carina.

"There is Abs darling, and if you want to photograph us training you'll have to get used to this." Carina smiled, "and besides just think of all the time you've spent getting up at this hour to go to shoots."

"Well I usually have Mama waking me with Turkish coffee," Abigail said as she fumbled on the bedside table to find her glasses.

"And I have just said item here in my hand?" Carina smiled as Abigail put on her glasses, and brought her into focus.

"Thanks," Abby said as she took the cup, and took a grateful sip, "so do we eat first?"

"Sort of…  We grab breakfast sandwiches to keep us going on the way to the aquatic centre."

"Fast food breakfasts? Dear Artemis what have I let myself in for?"

"At least I gave you the gentle wakeup, Kelsey and Moll were just wanting to grab the bed and tip you out."

"OY VEY" Abby rolled her eyes as she finished her coffee.


“We leave in ten minutes – time for the quick change Top Girl…”




7.30 am CET

Munich – Regattastrecke Oberschleißheim


As Abby loaded her bags into the second boat, she watched Carina, Kelsey and Molly making their preparations.


"All right Kelsey?" Carina asked as she got comfortable in her cox’s position.

"Good to go Specs." Kelsey locked in her oar as she sat in the bow seat.

"All right Molly?"

"Ready to go Specs," Molly smiled as she looked up from the stern seat.

"Okay ladies, gentle strokes and let’s get away from the dock without hitting anything this time."

"SHEESH!" the girls laughed "will we ever hear the end of that?"

"From me...No," Cari laughed as she fixed her microphone, "my biggest fear happened, and it wasn't the novice coxes fault, it was the two experienced rowers who cocked up."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah Specs," Molly laughed.

"Alright ladies, extend the strokes please and let’s feel what the wind is doing and what the current is as well." Cari realized that she had learned enough to be all business now on the water. "Stretch those muscles girls, long full strokes please.”  Cari glanced at her note board with the accompanying devices and watches so she could time and measure the workouts.





"What are they doing?" Abigail asked Gerhard Schreiber who was acting as the girls unofficial coach and in whose boat Abby was going to spend the session.

"The Princess has them going through their warm-up routine," the veteran coach spoke English with a guttural accent.

"And then what will they do?"

"Some thousand metre pieces trying to maintain a steady stroke rate, and we will time those."

"Alright how close will we be?"

"About 40 metres away."

"Okay I better start with this lens," Abby was also suddenly all business as she prepared to take pictures.


7 am BST

Briggens House Hotel


"Now come on ladies, everyone up and getting ready, we have a big day ahead of us," Harriet said as she came into the breakfast room, playing Sergeant-Major to the group.

"Uggh do you have to remind me? I'm still only just getting over Thursday nights ball," Pepsi yawned.

"And I spent half the night ralphing up that rotten Chinese food," Nikki complained.

"Well I've already been for a walk outside," Ama grinned as she came in, "it's going to be a beautiful day. I think it will be really magical."

"Well it might be if I can get my little speech right," Jeannie shook her head as she came in, "Doc can you look at my notes and tell me if I'm on the right track please?"

"Sure Jeans" Anna said as she started looking at the couple pieces of paper. "Well for starters you say that before you say that..."

"I'm sorry to impose Doc."

"Hey, not a problem.  Best to get this right…"

"I have a question Mrs Brand?”


“And that question is Em?”


“This afternoon - are we dressing as just ordinary girls or are we expected to put on a bit of a show like BS?" Orion asked.

"Interesting question?" Grace considered, "what do you think Barbara?"

"I say leave it up to each individual girl. Orion, ask yourself - do you want to spend a couple of hours signing autographs?"

"Not really,” the Irish model said, “but if it helps make money for the school, I guess I could."

"Same question to you Caroline, and to you Mandy?"

"No,” Caroline said, “I'd rather just be able to relax and enjoy a school fete, been years since I went to one...What about you Mandy?"

"I do a lot of these at home darling, I'd rather just go incognito for once.”

"Alright well then the best policy looks for you to all make your own choice,” Grace smiled, "Just remember it's going to be a lovely day out there."


“Right – day off then,” Orion said with a smile.





11 am BST

Briggens House Hotel


“Well, I see I have to set the standards for style,” Jeannie said as she sat in her chair, the skirt of her light blue dress covering her upper legs.


“And you are complaining because,” Doc said as she checked herself in her mirror.


"Alright,” Grace said, “pony tails or hair hanging loose girls, little or no makeup, and your real glasses or sunglasses."

"We get the idea Grace darling,” Mandy drawled, “it's not like any of us, other than maybe Nikki, hasn't had to dodge fans before."

"And flats or sneakers..."

"We know," Caroline laughed, "I only really wear heels for work anyway."

"I love that brunette wig Face," Orion smiled as she did up her jeans, "you become a whole different person when you wear it."


“So long as Ama can find you,” Pepsi said as she and Ama walked in.  “Boy, am I glad we do not have to jump through these hoops.”


“Really?  Have you seen the Daily Mail today, Peps?”


“What are you talking about,” Pepsi said as she grabbed the paper and looked on the inside pages.  “Oh shit…”


“Let me look,” Mandy said as she took the paper.  “Cambridge balls…  Bright young things…  Lord… Ah.”




“John, Viscount Millingham, pictured with Miss Nicola Broadhurst, a student from New York…  At least they do to have a picture of your left hand, darling.”


“Thank heaven for small mercies,” Pepsi said quietly.  “Right, pass me the make up remover…”




“So what will you be doing while the others avoid being recognised, Ama,” Harriet asked she sat with Sarah and the young girl.


“I shall see what the fete has to offer – and perhaps talk to some of the other guests.  I understand dame Margaret will be there as well.”


11.30 am BST



“Oh wow – Penny did well with this place,” Kay said as she drove the grey panel van up the driveway to the front of the house.


“You’re not kidding,” Sue said as she looked out, while Kay brought the van to a stop.  They both got out of the front of the van, Kay in a cornflower blue dress with matching heels, and Sue in a grey jumper and slacks.  As she stretched her arms, the side of the van opened, allowing Jane and Bobbie to come out.  Jane was wearing a yellow sundress with sandals, and Bobbie an open necked blouse with leather trousers.


“Cor – how much does she make as Madame’s PA,” she said as she looked at the large house.


“Enough,” Kay said as the door opened and Penny came out, with a thin, brown haired woman.  Penny was wearing a black round necked jersey dress, and the brown haired woman a cream coloured blouse and pants.


“Welcome to my country pad,” she said as she walked over, “girls, this is Helen York.  Helen, meet Kay, Sue, Jane and Bobbie.”


“It’s a great pleasure to meet you all,” Helen said as she hugged them in turn, Bobbie gasping at the strength of the embrace.  “Penny has told me a lot about you, but I’m sure not everything.”


“I’d be amazed if she had,” Kay said, “but it’s a real pleasure to meet the girl who has stolen her heart.”


“You really grew up around here, Pen?”


“Yeah Sue – I lived round here before I ran away to London,” Penny said quietly.  “I had to come back here – face other demons, as it were.  Anyway – come on through.  Dinner will be ready shortly, and I’ve got a table and seats set up in the back garden.”



“Back garden, she says,” Kay whispered as they went out of the kitchen, “it puts mine to shame.”


“Sit down – the drinks are cold, and the shade nice,” Penny said as they sat down.


“So Penny says you live and work in Hong Kong Helen?”


“Yes, I do,” Helen said with a smile, “I am the personal assistant to Miss Catherine Lu, the director of the Hong Kong branch of Huntingdowns.”


“So how did you meet Penny?”


“Helen is a bit more than Cathy Lu’s PA,” Penny said with a smile, “she’s better known as an enforcer – Silent Death.”


“Silent what,” Bobbie said – and then she saw the expression on the faces of the other three Dolls.  “Oh crap,” she whispered, “when you mean Death, you mean…”


“Best not to ask,” Helen said with a smile.


“Must have been tough, deciding to come back here,” Sue said.


“Easily one of the scariest things I have ever done,” Penny said as she sat down.


"Do you know what the most frightening thing was that we ever did Helen?" Kay asked as they sat round the outside table under the sunshade.


"Well given that you are all professional criminals,” Helen said, “then I would think some rather daring robbery."


"Helen you aren't even close," Sue laughed, "yeah we were scared doing those, but I bet you ask Penny the thing that scared her most she'll say..."


"Oh no you aren't telling Helen THAT?" Penny said as she opened a fresh bottle of wine.


"Hey you aren't the only one it embarrasses," Jane laughed, "It's all three of you."


"And I'll never get tired of hearing this," Bobbie joined the laughter.


"All right," Penny looked skyward "tell the story if you must Kay."


"Has Penny ever told you,” Kay said, “that in our relatively early days as a gang, that she, Sue, and I shared a semi out in Hendon."


"No that I didn't know."


"It was one of the oddest things ever, we'd leave the house in the morning looking like any typical office worker going into Central London, and we'd come home late at night looking the same." Kay started to giggle.


"What our neighbours didn't know was that we weren't going to work in an office, but in brothels instead."


"So you were all prostitutes Sue?"


"Yes we were Helen,” Sue said, “and you don't know how much I hate THAT word."


"Well we'd being in residence about three months," Penny added a detail.


"When these girls living over the road who we nodded to in the street came and knocked on our door one Saturday afternoon," Kay jumped in.


"They said they never saw us going out, and that even if we were Lesbians why did we never go down the local pub or something? They wanted to know why..."


"How do you explain that you work in a whorehouse?" Sue interrupted Penny.


"Well anyway to cut a long story short," Kay started to laugh again.


"We explained that no we weren't gay, and Helen darling at the time I thought I was still straight, but that with the hours we worked we just never got time to go out." Penny continued.


"Well that left the girls over the road shaking their heads, and they said they would fit us up with dates for the next Saturday night," Sue started to laugh.


"And did they?" Helen asked.


"Oh yeah…  They left a message on the door on Tuesday that they'd found three guys, and that we, the guys, them and their boyfriends would be going out on Saturday night." Penny shook her head, "as the girls said it was the scariest moment of my life."


"But why?" Helen looked perplexed.


"Because despite the fact we had all had sex with hundreds of men..."


"And the odd woman," Sue interrupted.


"Yes the odd woman as well," Kay smiled, "none of us had ever been out on a date in our lives."


"Oh come on - you must have?"


"No we hadn't Helen darling," Penny shook her head sadly.


"You see street kids Helen they don't have love relationships, it’s really just like brothers and sisters." Sue started to look serious as well.


"I've told you about my 'brother', Penny spoke softly.


"Anyway here we were we'd been set up with blind dates and we didn't have the first clue," Kay looked heavenwards, "Dear God we had no idea what a girl wore on a date, my folks had never let me date you see."


"We had no idea what you did in the way of makeup, what kind of shoes you wore, would we have to pay for the men?" Penny shook her head.


"We really were that ignorant of the ways of the so-called straight world Helen, and it literally terrified all three of us."  Sue looked solemn, "we all knew what you wore to go pick up punters in Piccadilly on a Saturday night."


"We were all used to wearing huge amounts of makeup when we were working," Kay spoke again.


"But what went on in this world, we were scared shitless with worry about." Penny shook her head.


“So how did you work it out,” Helen said, “or did you?"


"We did Helen," Penny smiled again, "I asked Agnes, and after she stopped laughing, she said she'd give us some lessons on Thursday after work.


"Clothes, hair, makeup, she took us through all the things 'normal girls' learn from their Mothers." Sue shook her head, "she didn't believe that we knew so little."


"We hit Brent Cross on Saturday morning and bought the sort of things Lady D'eath had suggested," Kay went on, “then we spent hours getting ready..."


"Stripping off makeup because it was overdone and too sexy."


"As Sue said trying to do our makeup, trying to practice what Agnes said couples on dates talked about," Penny looked up at the sky.


"They really did have no clue," Jane spoke for the first time in a long while.


"Well Seven that night found us, our knees shaking..."


"Every bone in our bodies screaming stay at home, stay in your own world," Kay again shook her head.


"But with a little Dutch courage we eventually headed round the corner to the local boozer," Sue wrung her hands at the memory.


"Gave ourselves one last check," Penny continued.


"And then pushed the door open," Kay finished. "It was so different to what we were so used to pubs and clubs that girls on the game used. No pimps, no obvious drug dealers, no girls talking in working girl trade language."


"But it was nice," Penny smiled again, “we didn't look out of place, the girls called us over..."


"And then Penny made a blunder," Sue laughed. “This big muscular guy who was her date asked her what he should call her, Penny or Penelope and Penny replied..."


"It doesn't matter what you call me...just call me often." Penny giggled at the memory.


"Whoops!" Helen laughed.


"Hey he was the handsomest man I'd ever seen." Penny laughed, "and embarrassing or not we had a great time, and we even let the guys give us one little kiss as they saw us home."


"Oh that’s lovely," Helen smiled broadly.


"But do you understand why it was the scariest thing we ever did?"


"Yes I do my love," Helen kissed Penny.


“Lunch will be ready – let me bring it out…”


11.30 AM BST

Abbotsweld Primary School


A small crowd was already roaming around the various stands and games on the school playing fields and playground, the teachers manning the area as people came through the gates, passing the large banner as they walked under.





“I have to admit, it does appear to be popular,” Barbara said as she and Jeannie were driven round to the front entrance of the school, and the car stopped.  As the driver got out, and Barbara got the wheelchair from the boot, she smiled at the grey haired woman who was walking out of the school entrance.


“Barbara – it has been a long time,” she said as she walked over.


“Mrs Brodie – it has been a long time,” she said as they shook hands, while the driver lifted Jeannie into the chair.  “Jeannie – we are so glad you agreed to come and do this for us.”


“It’s my pleasure, Mrs Brodie,” Jeannie said with a smile as she put her purse on her lap.  “So who will be joining us in the opening group?”


“Dame Margaret Harker is here – regretfully, with some Central Office staff – but I am sure she will ignore them as she tends to do normally,” the headmistress said with a smile as they made their way in, Jeannie stopping in the entrance hall and looking round.


“Brings back some memories?”


“In many ways,” Jeannie said as they made their way into the main hall.


“There you are, lass,” Maggie Harker said, her smile beaming as she walked over.  “How has your trip been so far?”


“Busy and intriguing in equal measures,” Jeannie said as Margaret leaned over to kiss her, and then kissed Barbara.  She looked at the two people with her, a man in a dark suit, blue shirt and dark tie, and a woman in a black blazer and skirt and a white blouse.  “Minders?”


“Conservative Central Office support staff,” Margaret whispered, “I told them this was not a political event, but they are so sensitive about what all of us do in the run-up to this referendum…


“Never mind them though – where are the rest of your group?”


“Slipping in, hopefully incognito,” Barbara said, “they did not want to be the people they are today, just normal visitors…”





“There you go,” the woman behind the desk said as she took the five pound note from the brunette, and looked at the two teenagers with her, both wearing hoodies and jeans, one dark skinned, the other with blonde hair, and both wearing sunglasses.  “Your program is also a raffle ticket for the holiday voucher.”


“Many thanks,” Caroline said as she walked onto the playground, Pepsi and Ama following her in.  “Looks a lot like the clubs fair at St Angela’s, with all the stalls.”


“Well, wander round, have some fun,” Caroline said as she saw Grace walk up with Nikki and Doc, “we’ll meet up at the refreshments tent at about one.”


“Thank you,” Grace said as she took the programs, and handed them to the two teenagers, as Orion walked to the table with Harriet and Sarah.


“Miss Nightingale, Mrs Craig,” the girl at the desk said, “you’ve come to see Jeannie?”


“I have – and my niece wanted to come as well,” she said as she looked at the red headed teenager, wearing glasses, a jumper and jeans, and ankle boots.  The girl looked at her, Rose in her cardigan and dress standing behind them with Becca, as Sarah said “not a word, all right?”


“Sure – come on in,” she said as they paid their entrance fee, and went into the fete.





“What is the point of this game,” Ama said as she and Pepsi stood by the footballs.


“Beat the Goalie,” the young teacher said.  “One pound for three attempts to beat our keeper.”


“I see,” Pepsi said as she watched a nine year old boy try to score, and the eleven year old boy easily saving the shots.  “One pound for three balls?”


“Indeed – want to have a go?”


“I do not know,” Ama said quietly, “it hardly seems fair…”


“Don’t worry,” the young lad said with a smirk, “I’ll go easy on you?”


Ama and Pepsi looked at each other, before they each paid a pound and looked at the goal.


“Would you care to go first, Pepsi?”


“No – you go first,” Ama said, standing back as Pepsi looked at the ball, looked at the goal – and then sent the ball sailing into the top corner.  The goalkeeper looked at her, as she scooped the ball out, dived in the same direction on the second shot – and then saw the ball travel into the other corner.


“Wow,” one of the younger kids watching said as she set up the third ball, sent it flying – and the young boy managed to catch it.


“Not bad,” Ama said with a smile, “my turn I think.”


The crowd was growing as she picked up the ball, and played keepie-up for a few kicks, before she powered the ball past the keeper in the bottom left corner.  The crowd applauded as she took the second ball, smiled at the keeper – and sent it flying into the top right hand corner of the goal.


“We’re even so far,” Pepsi said quietly as Ama put the ball down, and looked at the keeper.  He looked over at her, their eyes meeting, and Ama smiled – a dangerous smile, as she stepped back, took two steps – and sent the ball through his legs.


“That was nice,” she said as Pepsi looked at her, “would any of you wish to have our prizes?”




“A cosmetics sale?”


“Not quite,” the young man said to Doc as she and Nikki looked at the goods, “pick a ticket from the tombola, if it matches one of the ones on the goods you win that package.”


Nikki looked at the Magnilash packages, as well as the New You cosmetics, and said “I think we’ll pass on this one.”


“Oh I’ll have a go,” Harriet said as she came over, the two girls shaking their heads.




“Well, this still looks much the same as the times I visited it as the head of Downwood,” Grace said as she passed some of the games stalls.


“Much the same as the schools I went to,” Orion said as she looked at a stall selling little knitted and stuffed bears, “May I buy this one please?”


She paid for the little bear dressed as a leprechaun, and smiled as she put it in her shoulder bag.  “So,” she said, “when do…”


“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.”


“Now, I suspect,” Grace said as she saw a crowd forming round a small stage, Mrs Brodie standing at the microphone as Barbara and Maggie stood behind Jeannie.


“I first want to thank you all for coming here today,” the headmistress said, “and supporting our school fete.  It is an amazing privilege and pleasure for me to welcome our special guest, Dame Margaret Harker, MP – and also our very special guest, one of the best known and most easily recognised women in the world today.


“I was her teacher when she first came to this school, and I had the privilege of seeing her grow up while she was here, and then as she went to secondary school – and also the tragic accident which took her father, and meant she lost the use of her legs.  But she had not let that hold her back, and she is an internationally recognised model as well as a spokesperson for disabled young people.


“When we heard she was going to be visiting the area, we asked if she would come and open our fete for us, and I am so glad she agreed to do so.  Please, welcome back to Abbotsweld Primary School Jeannie Brewster.”


As the crowd applauded, Grace looked at the man standing behind Maggie, and scowled slightly.


“You know him,” Caroline said as she stood next to her friend.


“Oh yes – Cousin Colin,” Grace said quietly, “I heard a few stories about him…”



“Thank you,” Jeannie said as she held the microphone.  “Mrs Brodie, I want to first thank you for the invitation to be here today – I haven’t been back since I went to Downwood, and it is a strange feeling to be here now.  But one thing I always remembered were the friendships I made here – and it is so good to be made so welcome here today.


“I was a pupil here, and I loved my time here, which is I was so pleased to be able to come today, and to see the way the school is working now in support of all the pupils, and in support of the community.  I’m sure even if I was not here, you would all be here in support, but I’m always more than willing to do what I can to help.


“But most of all, what I remember of this school was the fun.  And by the look of things, there is certainly a lot of ways to have fun here, and I look forward to trying some of them – although forgive me if I pass on Beat the Goalie.”


There was a round of laughter as Jeannie said “So, it gives me great pleasure to declare this fete open, and to hope you all have a fantastic time here today – thank you very much.”



As the crowd applauded, Maggie looked out over the crowd, and then smiled as she stepped off the stage and walked over to the brunette.


“Trying to hide again Grace,” she whispered as she came over.


“Well, this is Jeannie’s day,” Grace whispered back, “and the rest of us wanted to avoid the spotlight if possible.”


“Apart from Harriet and Sarah?”


“Well, they’re not the ones that want to avoid the spotlight,” Grace said with a smile, “are you still coming tonight?”


“Oh yes,” Maggie said with a smile, “this is my day off before the final push.  I’m doing Sunday Politics tomorrow – discussing matters with Andrew Neil.”


“One of the tougher ones?”


“Nah – he’s a pussycat really, so long as you realise he knows what he is talking about and you’re ready with the answers.”


“You don’t get the high profile jobs?”


“What – do what Boris and the others do on the main shows?  Nah – you know me, much prefer to be the bulldog.”


“Well, enjoy yourself anyway – is that who I think it is babysitting you?”


“Oh yes – shall I tell him you’re here?”


“No – I’ll find him later,” Grace said, “I want to talk to him about a family matter…”






“Jeannie is going to spend some time signing autographs now,” Mrs Brodie said, and at those words a group of kids gathered round the stage, shouting and waving their books.


"Okay, okay" Jeannie laughed, "let’s do this by classes, who amongst you are pre-schoolers?" 

A couple of hands went up and a couple of little children shuffled forward to the front of the group.

"Alright,” Jeannie said as she took a pen from Barbara, “I'll do autographs for you guys first."

"Can we get a few pictures Miss Brewster?" a photographer shouted from the side.


"Please," Jeannie smiled her best models smile as she looked over.

"Maybe with a little one on your lap?"

"Like this?" Barbara said as she lifted a toddler on to Jeannie’s lap.

"Yes that's brilliant," he said as the press and parents took pictures.

"And what’s your name?" Jeannie asked the child.


"I'm Wendy and I'm thwee and a qwarter."

"Well that quarter is very important," Jeannie smiled as she autographed the girls little book, “enjoy the rest of the day.”


“Fank ew,” she lisped as she was lifted off, and ran to show her mother, the other toddlers been brought over.





“She really does love this sort of thing, doesn’t she,” Mandy said as she stood with Caroline.


“Yeah – she’s certainly the one amongst all of us who finds it easiest to do this,” Caroline said as she looked round.  “Lord, this takes me back to my childhood.”


“Before you ran away to join your mother?”


Caroline nodded as she said “Dad used to take me to the fetes at his school, and I had to stand by the side as he ran his stall.”


“Which one did he usually man, darling?”


“The Hoop-La stand - like that one over there.”


They looked over as Orion tried to throw the rings over the poles, Pepsi and Ama watching with her.


“This is where you remember they really are just teenagers darling…”


“Excuse me – are you Mandy Carrow?”


Mandy looked at the middle aged woman, and whispered “please, I would prefer to be incognito today darling?”


“Of course – I just wanted to thank you for helping my son this week.”


“Your… Ah, you are Eric’s mother?”


“That’s right – I’ll be there tonight, but thank you.”


“You’re welcome,” Mandy said as the woman walked off.  “Now that, I like…”




“How are you feeling,” Becca said as she caught up with Nikki.


“A bit better,” Nikki said quietly as she looked round, “at least I don’t feel as if I cannot keep anything down.  The soft drink seems to have helped.  Have you tried any of the stalls?”


“Not yet – I may have a go at the tombola, but we’ll see…”




“There you go,” Jeannie said as she signed the book, and the ten year old ran off.  “So who’s next?”


“Would you sign my book please, Miss Brewster?”


“You can call me Jeannie if you want,” she smiled as she looked at the dark skinned girl, wearing a pair of denim bib shorts with a white t-shirt underneath, and white deck shoes.  “Who do you want me to sign it too?”


“My name is Uma,” the young girl said, “but would you sign it to my mother please?”


“Of course – and your mother’s name is?”


“Mother, what is your name?”


“Rhona,” a grey haired Scottish woman said as she came over.  Jeannie looked at both of them, as Uma said “she is my adopted mother – I came to live with her some years ago, when my mother and father died.  She was my teacher, then she became my mother.”


“Oh I am sorry to hear that – where did you teach Rhona?”


“In a village in Mazengwe,” Rhona said, Jeannie looking at her, and then at her mother.


“One of Jeannie’s friends was born in Mazengwe as well,” Barbara said, “listen – are you planning to stay a while?”


“We can do – why?”


“Come and find us at about two – we’ll introduce you to her.”



2 pm BST



“I’ll clear the dishes later,” Penny said as Helen looked over the table.


"Penny told me that your marriage ended unhappily Sue"

"She did?”  Sue looked over as she said “Did she use some choice words about that bastard?"

"A couple," Penny nodded.

"Well I've used more than a couple over the last two years."

"Did he find out you were a China Doll?"

"No," Sue looked at Penny's neat flower beds, "he found out far worse."

"And that was?"

"That I was the daughter of a dead junkie, that I had no known father, that I'd been in care, that I was a runaway, but biggest of all that I'd been a working girl." Sue sniffed back a tear, "he used the P word as he shouted at me when he found out, it's why I hate it so bad."

"If I'm not being rude,” Helen said, “what was his name?"

"Colin Gresham-Fox...The Honourable Colin Gresham Fox."

Helen leaned forward for a moment, before she said "I know a Grace Gresham...any relation?"

"You know the Black Sheep of his family."

"Slightly, we have friends in common."

"Well at least now she's welcome back in the bosom of her family. Colin's dad is the British Ambassador in Washington."

"Damn," Helen said quietly.

"I know, 'far too far above my station in life' as the saying goes, but there was stupid little me thinking that like in a Mills and Boon book love would overcome all."

"So how long did it last Sue?"

"A quick Registry Office wedding, a week in Italy as a honeymoon, and then two days before he took me to Melford Hall to meet Lord Standerton and the rest."

"How did that go?"

"Not badly with just the family, but that night at the party they gave for me, I spotted a couple of my ex johns. they spotted me and neither could their fucking mouths shut about having had me multiple times." Sue cried, "At first Colin didn't believe them, and was going to beat them up, and then just like in a truly bad story the private detective the family had hired turned up with the salacious stuff he'd found out about my past."

"That's bad."

"Well let's put it this way Helen I was escorted down the drive to the gates, and Colin said he never even wanted to hear my name again and that he'd burn the clothes that I'd taken to Melford with me, and that the rest in our flat he'd send to Oxfam. With that he turned his back and walked away."

“I can’t see a relative of Grace doing that…”


“Grace certainly would not,” Penny said, “but she was still hidden at the time. 


"So how did you get back to London?'

"I hitched,” Sue said, “which isn’t easy when you’re wearing an evening gown, and after a couple of fights with drivers who thought I was fair game, I made it back to Jane's place in Highgate. There I cried for 48 hours solid."

"And the divorce?"

"Was a real quickie, I just signed the rubbish I was sent, and I went back to my old life with the gang."

"That is so horrible Sue." Helen shook her head.

"Well it taught me one thing, use a man for all they are good for, and if they get even remotely serious, kick them to the curb."


2 pm BST

Abottsweld Primary School


“Hello Grace.”


Grace looked up from the table and saw the man who had been standing behind Maggie looking at her.


“Colin – it’s being a long time.  I missed you at Uncle Stephen’s birthday party.”


“Well I wasn’t able to get away,” Colin said as he sat next to her.  “You look well – but I thought you went back to blonde.”


“I needed a bit on anonymity today,” Grace said quietly.  “Dad told me you got married.”


“Yeah – that was a huge mistake,” Colin said as he looked round.


“He also told me of the scene you created,” Grace said quietly.


“Oh,” Colin said quietly as he looked round, “if you think you’re going to lecture me on reactions after you pulled your act…”


“I’m not going to lecture you,” Grace said quietly, “but there are two sides to every story Colin.”


"Grace,” Colin whispered, “if Susan had been a thief I think I could have respected that, but she was a street kid, who'd become a prostitute..."

"And who as far as I had heard Colin,” Grace interrupted, “had built on that to build herself a respectable life."

"You know what they say Grace,” Colin said as he leaned back, “once a whore, always a whore."

"Colin…  She sold her body to keep her body and soul together, She built a life that didn't start from the ground, it started from the bottom of a crack in the ground."

"Grace a man has to expect..."

"To expect what Colin,” Grace said angrily.  “I know girls in New York who've slept around a lot, but I guess because they are 'ladies' and go to Harvard you could live with that?"

"Probably...I suppose."

"God Colin,” Grace said as she shook her head, “you are such a hypocrite…  Colin, did you even start to think of the things that she didn't have that we took for granted."

"Like what?"

"Well how about a bed to sleep in every night, regular meals, medical care...Love Colin...Your Susan had none of those, she had to fight tooth and nail not to get out of the gutter, but even to get into it in the first place."


"But nothing Colin,” Grace said as she looked at the girls sitting at the other table.  “Look at young Ama over there.”


Colin looked over at the African girl and said “seems a nice enough kid.  Why?”


“She was a slave...”  She saw the surprise in her cousin’s eyes as she continued “that's right - a slave, but I still think even she would feel sorry for your Susan because at least she had known love at some time in her life. From Daddy's stories Susan has no father, a Mother who gave her away...can you wonder she thought being a prostitute was actually a step up in life?"

"Those are not excuses Grace, social services..."

"Does what?   Put girls like her in foster homes, moves them round from place to place?"

"They do their best."


“Christ Colin – you sound like a true blue when you say that.  They are overwhelmed, and they do not have the resources to deal with people like Susan.”


Colin shifted uneasily as he said “you sound like Dame Margaret.”


“Good.”  Grace took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes as she said “It sounds to me that Sue did her best and she used the one thing going for her to survive, she sold her virtue."


"Grace a further point is that it looks like I'll be given a safe seat at the next election...What would it look like if it came out then that Susan had been a hooker?"

"What's it going to look like anyway when it comes out that you were once married to a Lady of the Night dear cousin?”


“Problem Grace?”


“Nope,” she said as she stood up, and looked at Caroline.  “Time to go?”


“Yeah – we need to get over to the school for the fittings.”


“Caroline – do you think Ama could stay back with Pepsi?  I’ll bring them over when I come with Jeannie?”


“Sure,” Caroline said, “how much longer?”


“We’ll be another half hour or so – Jeannie is nearly done, and there’s someone we want Ama to meet.”


“Okay – wagons roll people,” Harriet called out as Pepsi and Ama came over.


“Would you two come with me,” Barbara said, “we’ll follow them on.”



2.30 pm BST

Downwood School


"When are they getting here Miss?" Eric looked at his watch, "I still have things to fit just right."

"They should be any time Eric," Virginia looked at her phone, "Jeannie didn't want to disappoint anyone who wanted her autograph."

"Well I understand that, but couldn't the others have come on ahead?"


“They’re on their way,” she finally said, “fifteen minutes people.”



2.45 pm BST

Abottswood Primary School


“And thank you,” Jeannie said as the last autograph was signed, and the family went off.


“Here you go,” Pepsi said as she passed Jeannie a bottle of water, “we about ready to go.”


“In a minute,” Jeannie said, “Ama, there is someone I want you to meet.  Turns out there’s a Mazengwean girl who attends this school, and I said I had a friend from her home country.”


“There is,” Ama said with a smile, “then of course I would be delighted to meet her.  Where is she?”


“Just coming over now,” Jeannie said as she looked past Ama and Pepsi.  They both turned round as she said “Hey Uma, this is the friend I was telling you about.  Ama, this is Uma and her adopted mother Rhona.”


“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Pepsi said, and then she looked at Ama.  The sixteen year old was silent, as she looked at the younger African girl.


“It’s a real pleasure to meet you,” Rhona said as she held her hand out, and then she stared at Ama as well, before she whispered “no.   No, it cannot be…”


“Ama,” Barbara said as she looked over, “are you all right?”


“Is your friend all right, Jeannie,” Uma said as Ama walked towards her, and knelt down, putting her hands on her shoulders.


“Tell me,” she said in Zimba, “tell me it is you.”


“Who do you…”  Uma looked at Ama, and then gasped as she said “can it be?  Can it truly be?  I remember watching with mother and father as the bus left.”


“And I remember waving to you,” Ama said quietly as she looked at Pepsi, Barbara and Jeannie.


“Rhona,” Barbara said quietly, “what is going on here?”


“I…  I know Ama,” Rhona said quietly, “I taught her English in her village school, just as I taught Uma.”


“That is correct,” Ama said as she looked over, tears running down her cheeks “Uma…  Uma is my sister.  My real sister.”


“Your…  Your sister,” Jeannie said as she looked at both of them.  “I thought your sister had…”


“So did I,” Ama said quietly, “when I heard my mother and father had died, I thought…”


“No,” Rhona said quietly, “I heard some of the children had survived that attack, and returned to the village to see if I could help.  When I got there, there was nothing I could do – except make sure little Uma here had a home to live in, and someone to love her.”


“Was it bad,” Ama said as she looked at Uma.  The little girl nodded, as tears flowed down her cheeks before she said “where did you go?  After you were taken, we heard nothing, nothing at all…”


“It is a long story,” Ama said quietly, “and I will tell you one day – but I am overjoyed you are alive and you are well.  Your mother is taking good care of you?”


“She wants for nothing – she is the daughter I never really had myself,” Rhona said quietly, “but what of you?  Where did you…”  She then stopped and said “the reports from New York – I did not listen to them, but… That was you?”


Ama simply nodded as she said “Aunt Barbara, we must bring them with us to meet Mom and the others.”


“Of course we must,” Barbara said quietly.


“But go where?”


“Downwood School,” Jeannie said quietly, “we have a student fashion show some of us and some friends are walking.  And I suspect Ama and Uma have a lot to talk about.”


“We do – and we will,” Ama said, “but for now, please, come and meet my family.”


“It would be our pleasure,” Rhona said, still not quite believing what was happening.







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