Two Weddings and a Robbery – Part 1
Monday 4th July
8 am BST
“Hey,” Penny said as Sue opened her front door, “you’re looking a lot happier for some strange reason.”
“I know you know, but never mind – come on in,” she said as she stood to one side, allowing her and Helen to come in. Both were dressed for the office, while Sue was in jeans and a jumper.
“We brought pastries,” Helen said, “the others here?”
“Hey,” Kay said as they joined her, Jane and Bobbie, “So you got invited as well.”
“For some unknown reason,” Penny said with a smile as Susan brought in a tray of mugs of coffee.
“Well,” Kay said quietly.
girls I owe you all a first-hand account of what happened last night." Sue
looked round the room.
true?" Bobbie asked.
is, and this time we are doing it will a full church ceremony."
where?" Jane asked as she retrieved her diary from her handbag.
13th, and in the Anglican cathedral in Oban in Scotland..."
cathedral wedding," Bobbie looked in shock.
Sue smiled, "my mother-in-law to be is determined this time to do it with
my," Helen smiled at Sue.
"So are we
you are," Sue grinned "and I'm hoping you'll all be
sure?" Helen asked.
and Penny getting to practice at Charlotte's wedding, I'm hoping you can teach
these other three what to do."
"I'm going to be a bridesmaid twice in less then a month," Penny smiled very happily.
“What about dresses?" Kay asked.
"I suppose we go shopping..."
don't Sue," Penny stopped her, "Madame has insisted that she will pay
for dresses designed by Kylie Mitchell."
she wasn't, then I was going to insist," Helen laughed lightly.
she in Australia at the show Penny?"
should be in the air by now," Penny glanced at her watch, "and she's
coming here to finish work on Charlotte's wedding."
will do this if I ask Sue, so you had better start thinking on dress
designs," Helen looked happy.
"Well at the moment all I know is that it won't be white."
“Hang on,” Jane asked as she looked round, “what else are you not saying Susan?”
“What do you mean?”
"What is this going to mean to the China Dolls?" Jane asked the question everyone in the room was thinking but daren't ask.
“Actually,” Susan said, “I’m glad you asked. I may need to step down for a while, depending on some other matters, but certainly for the next few months as things settle down.”
“Which means,” Kay said quietly, “it’s time for you to step up full time Bobbie. Welcome to the team.”
“I… Wow, are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Sue said with a smile, “I’m sure.”
8 am BST
“So how are you feeling this morning,” Will said as Colin joined him and Tom in the restaurant.
“Still in a bit of a daze, if truth be told…”
best man Colin?" Will asked as breakfast was served.
Baxter will be back from Afghanistan, I'm hoping he will do me the
honour," Colin took a drink of coffee, “and with your permission Tom,
given there is a family connection sort of, I would like to ask John your son
if he will also stand up with me."
sure he'd be delighted," the Duke smiled.
"Well given that I don't think Kit will ever let him escape, and that she will be McAdam of McAdam one day, that it seems somehow right...and anyway I like him."
“Well good choices,” Will said. “You don’t have much time though.”
“I know – and apparently we need to talk to the Provost and explain why we divorced in the first place. Should be fun…”
8 am BST
Margaret Harker’s flat
is so unexpected," Margaret Harker sat down with her two house guests.
Maggie?" Glenda asked as she buttered some toast.
Gresham-Fox proposed to Sue last night..."
what?" Nessa nearly spilled her coffee. "But his career?"
"They've come up with a rather clever scheme, and it seems I'm to play an important role in said scheme," Maggie grinned.
“And that is?”
“Some time in the next few days, sadly, another seat is going to be vacant – this one in London. It’s a safe Labour seat, but given the current row in that party, one where the focus is on them for the wrong reasons. So, Colin gets nominated for that seat.”
“Almost certainly – but at the same time, he and Sue tell their story, with some help from Francesca. That way, any flak they get is minimised, and even if he loses, he is noted as someone who did the right thing for the party. Then come the next election, he gets nominated for a safe seat, and the guano has long since dispersed.”
“And your part?”
“Stand by him Glenda, support him. The seat is in a run-down area of the city – in many ways, Sue is the perfect partner for there. It’s actually a very smart move, given the alternatives.”
9.30 am BST
“Would you see who wants in Maisha please,” Shirley called through from the kitchen as the dark skinned teenager walked to the intercom.
“Maisha – It’s Aunt Catriona. Will you buzz us in please?”
“Of course,” she said as she pressed the button and looked at herself in the mirror. She was wearing a blue vest top over a long sleeved white one, jeans and ankle boots, with her dark hair held back in a ponytail.
“Do we have visitors,” Nyala said as she came out of the guest bedroom. She was wearing a denim dress and flat white shoes.
“Aunt Catriona – but I do not think she is alone,” Maisha said as she went to the front door and opened it. Catriona was getting out of the car, not for once wearing her work attire but a blue dress with a white jacket, and blue pumps.
“Who lives here,” Liz said as she got out of the passenger side, wearing a grey sweatshirt and jeans with mid-calf black felt boots.
“This,” Cat said, “is the home of Shirley Xavier and John Hammond.”
“The fashion photographer and the head of Xavier International? Wow – nice place.”
“Indeed – Maisha, thank you for allowing us entrance.”
“Of course, Aunt Cat,” Maisha said as they came in. “You met Nyala over the weekend in France, but this is…”
“Sorry,” Cat said with a smile, “this is my daughter Elizabeth. Liz, this is Shirley’s ward Maisha, and her American friend Nyala.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Maisha said as they shook hands. “Why don’t you come onto the balcony with us and we can talk there? Aunt Shirley is in the kitchen, Aunt Cat.”
“Come on through,” Shirley said as she appeared in the doorway. “I’ll bring some cold drinks out to you in a few minutes girls.”
“Thank you, Miss Xavier,” Nylala said as the three girls headed out to the balcony, and Catriona joined Shirley.
“I called the office, and they said you had the day off today?”
“Yes – we’re heading into town later for the fittings for our dresses for Naples,” Shirley said as she started the coffee machine, and turned round. “How are you?”
“Getting there,” Catriona said as she sat at the breakfast bar, “it was a shock mind you – being on the receiving end.”
“Well, I can imagine – but that’s not really what I meant,” Shirley said as she handed Catriona a coffee mug.
“I know – Liz turning up like that terrified me, but I was proud of the way she remained calm – well, as calm as I was. There really is so much of her father in her…” Taking a sip, Cat said “but the thing about events like that is it clears the mind, and when we were freed, we talked through the night. Cleared the air, as it were.”
“I have a friend in New York who went through a similar experience with her daughter,” Shirley said, “and she said the same thing – it made a lot of things clear to her as well. So you are at least talking?”
“We are talking,” Catriona said with a smile, “and while I can’t take that much time off work this summer, she is going to spend the summer in Ireland instead of at her grandmother’s, and I’ll visit as much as I can.”
“Well,” Shirley said, “you may have to go to Scotland…”
“So why is Miss Xavier your guardian, Maisha,” Liz asked as the three girls sat on the balcony, looking out over the river.
“Well, the story is a long one,” Maisha said, “but in essence – I and my sister Nyala were two of the Mazengwean slave girls.”
Liz looked at both of them, and said quietly “no…”
“It is true,” Nyala said, “when we were freed, I was adopted by my parents in Los Angeles…”
“…while in my case, Aunt Shirley offered me a home and a place to learn, until I am ready to return,” Maisha said.
“I read about it all at school, but to meet two of you face to face…” Liz swallowed as she said “it was bad enough for those couple of hours last Saturday, to be deprived of my freedom, but… IF I may ask?”
“In my case, not long – I was one of the last to be taken,” Maisha said, “but for my sister here…”
“Over three years – most of my childhood,” Nyala said quietly, “and I still wake up at night at times, even now, thinking I am back there…”
“You are not, however, and that is the main thing,” Shirley said as she brought out a tray with glasses, a jug of lemonade and some snacks. “Do you girls mind talking out here while Catriona and I talk?”
“Of course not, Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said with a smile as she poured the soft drink, Shirley smiling as she walked back into the lounge. “So what have I missed,” Catriona said as Shirley sat back down.
“Well, you remember Penny’s friend Sue?”
“I do – we met at the party in passing. She was the one in love with young Gresham-Fox?”
“That’s here – well, she was ready to fade into the background and let Colin stand for a safe seat, but he made a different decision.”
“Really? What made him change his mind?”
“You would not believe me if I told you?”
“Try me Shirley – very little about you would surprise me.”
“All right then – an African tribal mystic said if they wanted true happiness, they had to avoid the easy road, so he did.” Shirley looked at Catriona, who was staring back at her as she put her cup down, and said “truly?”
Shirley smiled, and continued “so – he said he would only stand for Parliament if Sue was by his side openly, which was going to create a problem given her – colourful past. You know Sir Peter Latimer?”
“I do,” Catriona said as she sipped her coffee. “I’ve faced his wife a few times across the bench.”
“Well, between them and others they came up with a plan. Colin will stand for a different seat – one he is more than likely to lose, but at the same time he and Sue will announce their engagement and Sue will tell her story. The idea is with the focus on the Labour candidate rather than him, the press will note her story and move on.”
“Colin takes one for the party, the bad stuff comes out, and at some point in the future the party remembers what he did, and rewards him?”
“In essence, yes. So, he and Sue are engaged to be married for the second time, but this will be in Oban at the Episcopalian Cathedral in August.”
“And Victoria, with some help from Daffy. The wedding announcement will be made in a couple of weeks, but the banns were posted in Oban this morning.”
“Well, over the next couple of weeks she’s helping Aggie to set up shop in her new offices. Then they come to the wedding, and Daffy takes her to her place after that for Goodwood while the wedding arrangements are completed. Up to Oban for the shooting and the wedding, by which time sadly the writ for the by-election will be served.”
“Kensal and Queen’s Park?” Cat sat back in thought for a moment, before she said “to quote those old cartoons, it’s so crazy it might just work. It won’t be easy for him.”
“True – which is why they’re drafting in Margaret Harker to help him.”
“Okay – and Agnes?”
“Looking forward to her work – but Donald also called round last night, he is going to be afforded the Ambassador’s post in Paris.”
“That might make Catherine happy…”
“I and others want Catherine where she is at the moment – given the problems she caused not just for Agnes, but for others including Sue and Colin, she needs to be where she is.”
Catriona nodded as she sipped her coffee. “She’ll be furious when she finds out, and she’s not there to stand by him.”
“I have someone at the clinic, she will inform me if anything happens,” Shirley said as Maisha looked in.
“We are going for a walk, Aunt Shirley. I will be back in time for our visit.”
“That’s all right Maisha – have fun,” Shirley said as the three girls went off. “Now, a question Cat – did you mean what you said the other day?”
“About seeing things from your side? Yes – why?”
“I’m not going to tell you everything, but next weekend something is happening – and I need to provide a few diversions…”
1 pm BST
“Well, I think the premises are good,” Susan said as she and Agnes ate their lunch, “I can start to get supplies in as soon as you give the word.”
“Consider it given,” Agnes said. “So, come down yet?”
“Just about – thanks for letting me come in late, but we had bridesmaids to organise. And now to see what else Bobby and Vicky have cooked up…”
make things a lot easier if I hadn't sold the New House," Agnes spoke
quietly as they sat at a table outside the cafe, "you could have been
married from there Sue."
your families old home isn't it Aggie?"
is, Twinkle Toes and I were both born in the house, it's where we grew
up," Agnes let a couple of tears go, "but to pay off Daddy's debts it
had to go along with all the land."
owns it now?"
company," Aggie shook her shoulders, "according to my sources they
have been model landlords, but no one from the company has ever visited the
lives there now Aggie?"
mean their factor, and his wife who keeps the house."
for its upkeep, yet no one ever uses it?"
think it was the land they wanted...NOT the house."
they would let you borrow it...or rent it...if no one uses it?"
thought of that, but no I have a little pride left Sue. I sold it, I live with
the consequences of my actions."
is the name of the company who own it?"
Properties," Aggie said as she shook her head.
Sue looked up sharply and said "can you repeat that please Aggie?"
Goddess," Sue started to laugh.
damn funny?" Agnes looked bemused.
really don't get it do you?" Sue laughed some more.
I'm wondering why my misfortune in having to sell my ancestral home is causing
you such mirth Susan Fletcher?"
Susan tried to stop laughing as she shook her head, "you have one of the
world's highest IQ's and you've never got this?"
what?" Agnes started to sound cross.
you get if you put Agnes and Donald together?"
than a wedding that never happened?" Agnes knitted her brow, "I'm
still none the wiser?"
Sue giggled, "take the company name apart - is it a coincidence that part
is Ag...as in your name?" And Don, as in Donald's? Don't you see
don…" Agnes said as the penny suddenly dropped, "Oh my God!"
you never even realised," Sue started to laugh again.
"Donald bought the estate..." Agnes fished out her mobile phone and mumbled “wait until I get ahold of him…”
gentlemen what shall we do today while your various spouses remain in the
air?" Tam asked with a smile.
sure," Charles Treharran smiled as the waitress took their order.
"Probably start to make plans round these weddings?"
sure,” Tamsin said, “I'm taking advantage of this to take Kits to Ardray and to
tell her the story of the McAdam's."
better drag my son and heir along," Tom Gaunt looked up from glancing at
the Racing Post online, "seeing that one day he will be married to the
Laird of Ardray?"
we all so sure of that?"
just as we always knew that Mandy would never let you go William, it's obvious
they are in love," Charles smiled.
Will?" Tam smiled again as the waitress arrived with the coffee.
it is with Judy, Pepsi, and my two boys," Will laughed.
so," Tam poured herself a cup "I presume it’s safe to say most things
are going to have to be fitted round the shooting for you gentlemen?"
"Oh like ladies such as yourself dear Tamsin don't shoot nowadays?"
“And besides Charlie,” Will said, “Caroline Jameson is a crack shot as well. I’m sure she would enjoy the opportunity.”
“Well, it is the Glorious Twelfth the day before, so a shoot is mandatory,” Will said. “Young Master Gresham needs to be contacted – see if we can hold it on his estate as neutral ground.”
“Interesting thought,” Tamsin said as her phone went off. “Excuse me a minute… Aggie, how are things going?
“Ah-huh – no I never realised that either.
“No – give me a minute,” she said as she covered the microphone. “Will – have you heard from Donald today?”
“You won’t get him – he was summoned this morning.”
Tamsin nodded as she said “sorry Aggie – you’ll have to try him later this afternoon.
“Oh don’t worry – I’ll ask him. Talk to you later.” Putting the phone away, she said “Tell me, your grace the Marquis of Ordford, were you aware of Agdon Properties?”
Will put his coffee cup down, and said “she’s just figured it out?”
“Oh yes – do explain…”
Tom and Charlie looked at Will as he sipped his coffee. “Okay – when Agnes had to sell part of the estate to cover her father’s debts, Donald was upset to say the least. He could not stand the idea of it falling into the hands of someone else. So he set up Agdon Properties, and started to buy the property, and then the house. It was going to be his wedding present to her – giving her back the heritage, but then she was arrested, and…”
“Are you telling me that Donnie owns the Ardray estate, and has said nothing to me over the years? Never mind Agnes, I’m going to kill him.”
“Tam, honestly – getting angry can change nothing. Talk to Agnes, and I’ll get him to call round later.”
“What was he going to do with the estate if they hadn’t got together again?”
“Well, he never told Catherine – For good reason, as it turned out. If she was that obsessed, and found out Donald was holding the lands… You’d really need to ask him, but I suspect they would eventually have found their way back to you and Kit.”
“But...” Tamsin shook her head and looked at the others. “All these years thinking she has sold her birthright to keep me and Kit above water…”
“Talk to her, Tamsin,” Tom said, “you need to do that.”
2 pm BST
"Are we going to be able to fit everything round Goodwood?" Shirley asked as she looked round her office, "with no restrictions for the Richmond Enclosure as there are for the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, I was going to suggest we get as many of our friends there as possible to be seen with both Agnes and Sue."
"That's a very, very, good idea Shirley," Francesca smiled, "as long as it can be fitted round my daughter’s wedding."
Susan's of course." Bobby Gresham-Fox added.
arrange my trial dates round everything." Catriona glanced at her diary.
"Ditto," Clarissa Latimer smiled as Angela brought in the tea and coffee.
"You know my husband is going to insist on getting a few days shooting while he's back?" Bobby selected a biscuit.
John will," Shirley rolled her eyes.
everyone is agreeable I'll check where everyone has been invited to
shoot," Sherry Babbage took a cup of tea. "My husband actually DOES
NOT SHOOT...but I do," she laughed.
I," Daffy laughed, "though Jimmy is far better than I am."
is a soldier." Catriona laughed.
"Can I say how wonderful your offices are Shirley?" Bobby remarked.
“Thank you – we wanted something traditional but also modern. Penny’s assistant Lilian found this for us and it suits us to the ground.”
“It suits you – what about your other offices?”
“New York and Los Angeles? Susan and Madelaine put their own stamp on them. While I have you here ladies, may I ask another related question?”
“Go on,” Francesca said.
“With Agnes’ story due to appear this Sunday, I’ve been wondering about the initial conviction and trial.”
“In what way,” Francesca asked.
couple of such fine legal minds here," Shirley smiled at Catriona and
Clarissa, "and knowing what we know about Catherine's handywork, do either
of you consider that Agnes perhaps has grounds for a miscarriage of justice
verdict... At least to have the actual
"It's been on my mind," Catriona nodded, "the judge is no longer with us, but if Clarissa concurs when she and I get the chance to sit down and review everything, then I do think we have grounds for some kind of action."
"The sentence is out of line with what was common practice then, even if she was a previous prostitution offender," Clarissa sipped her tea. "I'm going to get hold of the trial transcripts to read."
“If something was done, would that aid the travel issue?”
“Mike told me half of that is already dealt with,” Sherry said, “the big problem is the US.”
“Well, anything that can support my friend Congressman Morse will be most appreciated,” Shirley said as she sipped her tea.
Catriona nodded as her phone went off, and she looked at the text message, before saying “ah.”
“Ah,” Catriona said, “I need to let you all know something while you are gathered here. Best this is out in the open as well.”
“What is,” Sherry asked.
“As you know, Agnes sold in pieces virtually the entire Ardray estate to raise funds to pay off debts. The estate and the New House has for the last twenty years been owned by Agdon Properties, who pay for the upkeep of the estate and the house.”
“True,” Shirley said, “so what has happened?”
“Well,” Catriona said as she looked at Shirley, “she just realised that Agdon is wholly owned by one Lord Donald Fitzstuart.”
The other women in the room looked at her, before Sherry said “you are joking…”
“I’m not – apparently Sue pointed out what the title meant, Agnes finally put two and two together, and…”
Shirley raised an eyebrow as she looked at Catriona and said “hiding in plain sight? And you know this because?”
“I was told by Donald, under the seal of the client-barrister privilege. But if it is becoming an open secret?”
“Donald owns Ardray? So why can’t he give it back,” Bobby asked.
“Small matter of not talking to each other for twenty years,” Shirley said as she shook her head.
“But if Donald owns Ardray, would he be open to use it for the wedding?”
“I somehow think,” Catriona said, “he needs to talk to Aggie first…”
9 pm Local Time
Dubai International Airport
"Good for Colin," Grace Gresham looked at her phone and smiled as she stood in the transit lounge at Dubai Airport. "I knew he had the right stuff in him somewhere.”
"You've seen the announcement Grace darling?" Kylie asked.
"I have indeed...can I take it you have an interest?"
"Shirley Xavier has commissioned me to design the dresses... So yes."
"You'll have to get together with Rose and others?"
"Get togevver wiv me for wot?" Rose asked as she walked over.
"To get together a wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses for Sue Fletcher. Colin Gresham-Fox asked her to remarry him."
"Good fer him... 'Ow long do we 'ave remember we also got a weddin' in Italy Kylie."
"We have till August 13th..."
"And it’s to be at Oban in Scotland," Grace added.
"She's not askin' for a lot is she?"
"Actually it isn't her darling. Shirley Xavier is the one paying for it all."
"Yes darling...my initial thoughts are that after a few hours to get our heads back together when we get to London, that we take Sue and Penny to Joel & Son in Church Street, Mareylebone, and as we look at fabrics then just maybe Sue will get some ideas what she wants.”
"Well it sounds like a plan to me," Grace grinned.
"I can't think of anyfing better," Rose shook her head, "so I suppose we'll do just that Kylie."
"Good darling. Now, some tea before the next flight I think…"
6 pm BST
“You’re sure you’re all right now Liz,” Kit asked as the foursome sat at the table.
“I’m fine –
besides, talking with Mummy and then Maisha and her friend put it in
perspective. And to think they were once
both slaves," Liz shook her head as she finished her evening meal.
another one," Kit said without smiling, "Caroline Jameson's daughter
Ama was also held for several years."
people be so cruel?"
one of the hardest things to contemplate when you look at us as a
species," Kit shook her head.
the subject to something happier," Eve spoke, "it sounds like we are
all going to be guests at two weddings once this place lets out."
I thinking I'd gotten out of going to Scotland..." Liz laughed.
even you'll admit there is a world of difference between going to your
grandmother's, and what sounds like it will be a fun wedding in
Oban." Aileen grinned.
VERY true Aileen." Liz smiled at the younger girl.
"I can't get over the fact he asked John to be his second groomsman," Kit said as she finished a glass of milk.
“Well, in some ways you are related and a neighbour – Ardray is right next door to where Mummy grew up, after all.”
“True – and Uncle Will and Aunt Mandy have their estate between Ardray and the Argyll coast,” Kit said, “as well as their island estate where the woolen goods come from.”
“So Oban is only a short trip over,” Aileen said, “we’ll have our own gathering…”
7 pm BST
“Aggie,” Tamsin said as she opened the front door to the flat, “are you in?”
“In the front room,” she heard her older sister call out, walking in to find Agnes looking at a pile of documents. She looked up at Tamsin as she removed her coat and said “Did you know?”
“No – the first I knew was when you asked me in that call, I asked Will, and he confirmed it. What are those?”
“The deeds of sale,” Agnes said as she looked at the one in her hand. “All the sales were done through the same agent – I never knew, never suspected…”
“Do you want something to drink?”
“Oh yes – but I’ll stick with coffee thank you, I need a clear head,” Agnes said as she sat back, removing her glasses and rubbing her eyes.
“Did you manage to track Donnie down?”
“He texted to say he was coming round with some news… Tammy, why did he do it?”
“Ask him,” Tamsin said as she went to the kitchen.
“Oh I intend to – but do you realise what this means? I thought all I had left was the site of the old Castle, a poor birth-right to pass on to Kit.”
“But a birth-right none the less,” Tamsin said as she brought the coffee round. “Any idea who is minding the fort?”
“Nope – hey, do you think it is still there?”
“What is still there?”
Tamsin sat down and smiled. “The treehouse? It must still be there, but what sort of state it would be in…”
“Do you remember when we spent the night out there with Cat?”
“Oh lord yes,” Tamsin said with a laugh, “we took all the supplies and drinks we thought we would need, sat and talked, got into our sleeping bags, determined to see the night out, and then…”
“And then had to run back in at midnight when the heavens opened and the roof leaked like crazy!” Agnes stated laughing, Tammy joining in as she did so.
“Do you know,” Agnes eventually said, “these last twenty years, one of the things I have dreamed of was walking round the loch again, breathing the air, smelling the heather, but all these years I have thought it was just a pipe dream, something that could never happen.”
“I know,” Tam said, “I’ve had similar dreams. I was saying to some of the others with this wedding, the chance was finally there to show Kit where we came from.”
Nodding, Agnes said “yeah – I was thinking of visiting as well, now I’m coming back out.”
Tamsin nodded before she said “but we now know Donald owns the estate. Someone should warn him.”
“Oh no – I want to talk to him with no warning…”
“Not about that. Will called Catriona after we finished our lunch, and she called me a short while later.”
“Now why doesn’t it surprise me that Catriona knew? That woman knows how to keep a secret,” Agnes said quietly.
“But she was at the Aldwych – with Francesca, and Sherry, and Bobby and Daffy and Veronica…”
“And… Oh no,” Agnes said as she suddenly realised, “let Sue really be married from there?”
“What’s to stop that happening?”
“Can you imagine how someone is going to react to that?”
“What – her husband has owned for the last twenty-odd years the lands and estate of the woman she hates more than almost anyone in the world, and now one of the other whores in her eyes gets married from there?”
Agnes nodded and said “yeah – it might tip her over the edge.”
“And why would she find out? Get Victoria Gordon on the line and talk to her.”
“But good lord Tam – he kept this from me!”
“Well, to be fair…” Tamsin’s answer was left silent as there was a knock on the front door. Agnes quickly gathered and filed the papers as Tamsin went to the door.
“Tamsin,” Donald said as she opened it, “is Aggie here?”
“Oh yes,” Tamsin said as she stood to the side, “come in Donald.” She waited as he removed his coat and hung it up, and then walked into the front room to find Agnes standing by the old fireplace.
“Hey,” Donald said with a smile, “how has your day been Agnes?”
“Interesting,” she replied quietly, putting Donald slightly on edge as she continued “I tried to call you earlier today, but I was told you were unavailable.”
“That was what I was going to tell you,” Donald said, “I was summoned to be asked by Her Majesty to act as the ambassador of the Court of Saint James to Paris.”
“Congratulations,” Agnes said quietly, “have you told Catherine yet?”
“I’m on my way to see her, but I wanted to tell you first,” Donald said as he looked at the two women. “I thought you’d be pleased for me.”
“I am,” Agnes said, “but I thought we agreed there would be no secrets between us Donald.”
“We did – why?”
“Would you rather I…”
“No – this affects you as well Tamsin,” Agnes said as she walked over and looked up at Donald. “When were you planning to tell me about Agdon Propeties?”
“Agdon…” Donald looked at both of them and swallowed as he said “Well, sooner rather than later, but…”
“Okay, okay – sit down Aggie, let me explain.”
As Tammy and Aggie sat down, Donald sat in the seat opposite and leaned forward, clasping his hands. “It was meant to be my wedding present to you – to ensure Ardray remained in the hands of the McAdam of McAdam and those who came after. I did it behind a shell company so that you were unaware, and it would be a surprise. As it was however, things turned out very differently…”
“My wedding present?”
Donald looked over and nodded. “I was so angry and upset when that story appeared, and I broke off the engagement. But I could not bring myself to sell Ardray, so Agdon has paid for the maintenance ever since. Outside of me and Will, only a few people who had to know knew I was behind the company – not even the current factor and housekeeper know.”
“Just out of interest, who are they?”
“Who are… Oh, Rory and Sheilagh McAdam.”
“Rory? Old Angus’s son?”
Donald nodded as he said “Aggie, I never ever intended to mislead you or Tamsin. In my will, it states if I died, the estate was to revert to you and her. But I changed that today, because it is time for you both to return home.”
“What… What do you mean,” Agnes said quietly.
“That today, Agdon Properties has asked Rory and Sheilagh to prepare for visitors this weekend. I want the house to be your home again, Aggie – it is long past time you got your present.”
“Ardray is ours again?”
“Legally, Ardray remains the property of Adgon Properties, but as far as I and everyone else is concerned, you are the mistress of the New House again. So I need you and Tamsin to come up this weekend, and see the house again.”
“Only if Kit comes as well – Benenden closes on Friday,” Tamsin said.
“Of course – and I am truly, truly…”
“Oh shut up,” Agnes said as she came over and kissed him, Tamsin watching and smiling. “Now, I have a plan, and I want to discuss it with the owner of the New House.”
“Right then,” Donald said as he sat back, “what do you want us to talk about, and should we call Katherine?”
“What are you talking about, Donnie?”
“I changed the directors of Agdon Properties today as well – the named directors of the company are myself and you two, and when she is of age Kit will also be signed up. Makes inheritance tax a bit simpler, true?”
The two sisters looked at each other as Aggie said “oh boy…”
Tuesday 5th July
7,15 am BST
Heathrow Terminal 3
"Oh God it is so great to be back on Terra Firma," Grace Gresham smiled as she walked with the main group.
"Yeah, but think of those who have to catch connecting flights Grace," Juliette groaned as she ushered her two very-tired daughters towards the transit lounge.
still need to fly to Munich," Ingrid grunted.
Mama and me," Abigail added.
till our flight leaves for Belfast?" Dave O'Ryan looked up.
"Are we even in the right terminal?" Orion asked.
“Nope – we need to go through and transfer to Terminal 5, so this is where we say bye for now,” Orion said as she hugged Katy and the others.
“Okay, the rest of us are off to our hotel and homes,” Mary said, “onward and upward!”
coming home darling?" Kylie asked Marina, "you know I'm no longer
it's still home Kylie,” Marina said as they made their way to the passport
check, “and this little bit of downtime gives us a chance to see a few
going to have time to enjoy yourself Marina?" Kylie laughed, "with
all that work you have in your luggage."
about you Miss Mitchell," the lady on immigration as she checked Kylie's
passport, "working while you are here?"
call three wedding dresses to make sure are perfect, and starting work on the
spring/summer collection is work darling?"
"Well it would be for me...You have fun," the woman asked as Kylie replaced her glasses.
Weekly is hardly your usual reading matter," Ingy smiled as her twin
bought a copy.
"I want to read what was said about the girls winning those two Europa B regattas."
“Oh yeah,” Abby said, “looking forward to seeing them as well.”
“Well, what do we have here,” Maeve said as she saw Rose walk through from the Arrivals hall.
“A very tired and very happy woman,” Rose said as she embraced her sister, “who wants nothing more than to get to her flat, have a nice cup of tea, and a natter.”
“Sounds like a plan to me – what of the others?”
“They’re heading for the hotel - Kylie, call me later and let me know the plans for tomorrow,” Rose said as she looked at the small group who came through after her.
“I will, darling,” Kylie said as she, Marina, Mary and Fiona went to the cab stand, while Mandy and Angel went with Will.
10 am BST
“Erica, lass – and how are you enjoying your vacation,” Mary said as she sat with a coffee.
“It’s amazing Mary,” she heard Erica say, “we visited where Mum’s Dad came from, and met some of her family, as well as attending some concerts and spending time in the city.”
other things what else did you do?"
a car, and I hope you don't mind but we went to see your brother, and he
arranged for us to lay flowers on your father’s grave."
Denice broke in, “we both thought it was an important thing to do."
thank you," Mary stifled a couple of tears.
"Now on a
different matter...MARY...why have you never told us about a place called Hay
"Or as I'm calling it...HEAVEN." Erica added.
“Ai, I should have told you of that,” Mary said with a smile, “a bibliophile’s paradise. So you still coming back end of the week?”
“To fly home, and then to the wedding – I can’t believe we got invited to that as well,” Erica said, “we’ll see you then…”
10 am BST
mean I can plan to have the reception at Ardray Tamsin?"
that Mummy?" Vicky looked up from playing with her son on the floor as
Roberta walked past, the phone to her ear.
darling, I'll explain in a bit."
For a couple
more minutes Lady Roberta listened.
knew he was a great old romantic at heart," she shook her head,
"fancy his buying it like that as a wedding present for her, then
never telling her, and never selling it."
what the hell?"
Aggie, Vicky is going to have a fit if I don't explain." Bobby put her hand over the handset, and said
"It turns out the company that bought the Ardray estate is owned by Donald
inviting the McAdam ladies to join in joint ownership of the company...they are
going up to see it again this weekend."
"And because it's so close to Oban we can do Colin and Sue's wedding from there?"
“Hopefully – we’ll see what happens after that…” She heard the knock on the front door, and then watched Victoria as she stood up to see who was there.
“Dad! What are you doing here?”
“Finding out what has happened,” Charles Gresham-Fox said as he came into the front room.
“Hey there little one,” he said as he hugged his grandson, “Can you go with your mum? I could do with a drinkable coffee.”
“Come on,” Vicky said as they went to the kitchen, Charles sitting down and saying “well?”
Bobby said as she sat next to him, “there is a slight change in plans..."
me the wedding is off already," Charles said as he rolled his eyes.
your mouth out darling," Bobby giggled. "No, it has come to light
that the mysterious owner of the Ardray estate all these years is none other
than Donald Fitzstuart."
anyway, this means we can host the wedding from the New House."
should be perfect darling."
your passion,” Bobby said with a smile, “I enquired... Ardray has not been shot for over 20
"WHAT?" Charlie stood up and looked at his wife. “And we meet for the twelfth there?”
"Now how did I know that would excite you?" Bobby giggled, "I tell you a lovely story relating to Donald and Aggie and I get politeness, but mention an unshot grouse moor?"
“All right, all right,” Charles said as Victoria brought coffee through, “so where are they today?”
“Colin is at Central Office – as for Susan, she is at her new job with Agnes McAdam.”
“If you have their address, I will call on them later – I have some news for her…”
10.30 am BST
As Pepsi walked across the morning room, she smiled as she saw the door open and Mandy walk in.
“Well, I have returned,” she said as she looked round, “and it looks as if I have hardly been away.”
“Welcome home Mum,” Billy said as she stood up, Jack reading a book in an armchair, “where’s Angel?”
“Gone to arrange for some tea,” Mandy drawled as the door opened, and Angel came in, followed by a maid with a tray. “I do so hate those long flights,” she said as she sat down, and stretched her legs out in the jeans.
has it been like running Ordford Pepsi darling?" Amanda took off the tiny
jacket which she was wearing over a flowery dress, "Did they all
cannot speak for Will... He, as he may
have told you, has been staying at his club in London. But we've muddled
through up here."
even had her in some old jeans and your green wellies feeding the pigs,"
Jack said without looking up.
"I need to
buy some for myself," Pepsi laughed, "my feet are smaller than yours
you to buy them in London darling... And by the way have you noticed the first
thing 'he' has done on getting home is go and check on the pigs?"
"You know dad’s priorities
Mum?" Jack grinned.
darling," Mandy looked rueful, "so what else do I need to know?"
she said as she sat down put her feet up and took a cup of tea from Billy.
"I made a
mistake," Pepsi winced slightly, "I accepted a dinner invitation for
us all from the Heller's?"
is wrong with that darling?" Mandy raised an eyebrow.
"Ouch," Mandy breathed hard, "you did right though Nicola darling, just let Angel and me get some sleep this afternoon and we should be fine to go."
“Okay then Tamsin,” Will said as he came in with the telephone, “thanks for letting me know. I’ll tell the others, and we can discuss the arrangements once my better half is more aware of what’s going on.”
Mandy raised an eyebrow and looked over as Angel said “okay – this could be fun…”
“We’ll see you soon Tamsin,” Will said as he sat down, and poured himself some tea.
“The pigs are fine, well done boys and girl,” Will said with a smile. “Oh – and we have a wedding to go to in August.”
“Oh – this is young Colin Gresham-Fox’s wedding,” Mandy said as she sipped her tea, “and where is it to be held from?”
Mandy stopped, her cup halfway to her lips, and said “does she know?”
“She does – Donnie has made her and Tamsin the effective co-owners of the New House and estate. So, it will be a true Gathering.”
“Oh my,” Mandy said quietly, “and Catherine?”
“I didn’t ask…”
2 pm CET
Juliette barely had time to walk into the townhouse before Judith ran out, her arms outstretched as she was picked up and hugged.
“We’ve missed you as well, little one,” Juliette said as she handed the toddler to Carina, Judith cuddling into her and saying “I missed you” while Ingrid took her coat off.
“And I’ve missed all of you as well – have you taken care of Rudi and Mags for me?”
“Yes Momma – I helped Aunt Sigi and Mommy,” Judith said with a smile.
“And she has as well,” Sigrid said as she came out. “Annie has taken the twins for a walk, but welcome back, all of you.”
“Welcome back, your highnesses, Countesses, Miss Jameson,” Frau Strecher said as she came from the office. “Do you require refreshment?”
“Coffee please,” Juliette said with a smile, “Klaus?”
“His Highness will be home within the hour. I will have coffee brought through immediately,” she said as she bowed and turned.
“Where’s Ama,” Caroline asked as she took her coat off.
“One guess,” Sigrid said.
“Okay – I’ll talk to her when she gets back. We have plans to make for the summer.”
“So I hear – what is this about a Scottish wedding…”
2 pm BST
They made an interesting couple – the blonde haired barrister, in her dark jacket and skirt and white blouse, and the dark skinned teenager in a blue dress and white shoes.
me about Ardray please Aunt Catriona?" Maisha asked as they took afternoon
estate, or the New House, or the Castle?"
it all,” Maisha said, “I've read several books by Nigel Tranter and he always
makes Scotland sound so magical."
Catriona said, “Ardray is certainly both magical, but also beautiful. The New
House stands on a reasonably large level plateau overlooking Loch Rechin with
views across the loch to Ben Ambar rising up on the opposite bank.”
"Why is it
called 'The New House'?"
it's only 250 years or so old."
makes it new?" Maisha asked as she took a sandwich.
in comparison with Ardray Castle."
a castle as well?"
there is a ruined tower, and a couple of surrounding walls,” Catriona said, “but
McAdam's have lived on that site for at least twelve hundred years."
about a mile away from the New House on a rocky headland in the loch surrounded
on the three sides by water. History records it has been besieged at least
three times, and destroyed twice...Have you studied the Jacobite rebellions Maisha?"
McAdam's were both firm supporters of the Stuart family, and of Roman
"Okay – so
certainly not a supporter of James."
"The castle was destroyed for the final time in the Covenanting Wars, and several Lairds in a row lived in France aiding both the Stuarts and serving in the armies of the French king. It wasn't until the early 1750's that Hector McAdam the 26th Laird made his piece with the House of Hanover, and was regranted his hereditary estates. It was he, along with assistance from a Perth Architect called Robert South, who designed the current house, which without going guide-booky on you is a large three storie basemented house, built in a version of the Palladian style, with clear ideas taken from buildings the Laird must have seen while he lived in Europe."
“It sounds so romantic?”
“In many ways it is,” Catriona said with a smile, “in many ways…”
8 am PT
San Francisco International Airport
“They landed an age ago,” Alison Clarke said as she stood with Vicky and her father, “where are they?”
“Well, to be fair kiddo, we took an age to get through passport control when we flew back,” Dave Clarke said as she smiled at his youngest daughters, both wearing shorts and t-shirts. “So we need to be patient for a little while longer and then…”
“THERE THEY ARE!”
“So what does it feel like to have flown round the world?” Dave Clarke smiled as his two daughters emerged into the Arrivals Hall looking tired, slightly shabby in their jeans and T shirts, but extremely happy to finally be home with their family.
“It feels incredible Pops,” Suzy kissed her father, before her two younger sisters literally threw themselves at her.
“Did she behave herself Poppit?”
“She did,” Mary smiled, “she listened, she took direction, and yeah I can now see what Merlin was getting at.”
“What was the most exciting thing Suzy?” Allison asked as the boys took over the luggage.
“Would you believe just sitting down among so many famous faces, and people talking to me just as if I was one of the ‘family’.”
“Well, we’re back with our family now,” Mary said as they walked together, “and I for one am really glad to be back. I cannot wait to sleep in my own bed again.”
“Me too – it feels like the early hours of the morning and I’m at the roughest sleepover of my life,” Suzie said.
“Well come on – home, a few hours sleep, and then you can tell us all about it…”
5 pm BST
“Now this is a dilemma I never dreamed I would have to face.”
“What is Kyles,” Marina said as she looked up.
"How do we
dress to go visit Tottenham darling?"
have the problem Susan had...remember what we did when we heard about a
Kylie laughed, "and that was the day that changed our lives."
be nice to see a few people and old places though."
Kylie nodded as
she took out a pair of designer jeans and a polo shirt. "Do you remember what I said darling
when Susan said she was staying at the Savoy?"
Marina grinned, "You asked her if it was a chip shop in Enfield
"I know," Kylie walked over and looked at herself in the mirror, "Have I really changed this much in such a short time?"
“We both have kiddo,” Marina said as she stood up, “and you know what I’m wondering?”
“What on earth is Bev going to be like when she has spent some time there?”
Kylie smiled as she said “I do not know, but I imagine it will be as fabulous as us. For now, however, she will be asking questions.”
“Many of which we cannot answer – but such is life. Give me time to get dressed and we’ll take a cab out.”
5 pm BST
“That’s better,” Rose said as she sat down, “I needed the fresh air and I need this cuppa.”
“So you seriously have to consider another wedding dress commission?”
“Out of the blue, yes.”
Kylie's problem is designing something for a bride who can't really where a
traditional wedding dress?" Maeve asked as she brought in the teas.
told me there are two definite constraints, first that as Sue puts it she
definitely cannot wear white..."
why?" Maeve laughed as she sat down next to her sister.
problem is that even in Summer you can expect a lot of rain in the Western Highlands."
back home in Ireland."
"So Kylie is racking her brains for something practical, but in which Sue will still look fantastic."
“Well, given that, the traditional designs go out of the window,” Maeve said, “but Kylie will want to put her own stamp on it as well. Without going into details, what is she doing for Charlotte?”
“Neo-Georgian dress style, and I’m saying no more than that,” Rose said with a smile before taking a sip from her cup.
“Okay – so how about looking into the past, as Mary Thomas is known to say?”
“Hmmm – it’s an idea. The Seventies do seem to be coming back into fashion…”
“May the Holy Mother have mercy on us all,” Maeve said.
“Yes, but I wonder if the dress length can reflect that – or the style…”
6 pm CET
“Welcome back, Miss Jameson,” Frau Strecher said as Ama came in.
“Is that my daughter,” Caroline said as she came out of the drawing room.
“Hello Mom,” Ama said as she sat down in a chair. “How was the flight?”
“Long – listen Ama, we have an addition to our summer schedule for August.”
“Oh,” Ama said as she looked up from undoing her laces, “what?”
invitation to both of us – not just to go to yet another wedding in Scotland,
but for me to go shooting as well."
"Shooting what?" Ama asked as she changed out of her football boots.
"Have I ever had them?"
not," Caroline smiled, "I've only done so rarely."
"So it’s from here in Munich back to London for Heather's lectures, then to Naples for the first wedding, then back again to England and Scotland?" Ama grinned, "will I get any chance to practice with the team before our little tour?"
“I’ll call Sarah and let her know,” Caroline said, “in the meantime, I got you a present.”
“Oh – what is it?”
“A Socceroos kit – I’ll bring it up while you shower and change…”
7 pm BST
The Three Bells, White Hart Lane
“Hey Frank – how’s business?”
"Well there's a face I ain't seen in a long while," Frank Bell the landlord dried his hands, then shook Marina's. "What are you doin' back 'ere? Nuffin...?"
"No nothing bad Frank," Marina shook her head, "had some down time coming after Sydney and I thought I'd come see some old familiar places, and some old friends."
Frank looked at the young woman, in her light blue jumper, leggings and "Sydney? and wot are you drinkin'?"
"A glass of your house white,” Marina said as she looked round, “and I was there on my first real trip as part of my new job."
"I 'eard you woz livin' in 'Ong Kong?"
"I was," Marina smiled, "but I've just started working as one of Anna Mitchell's PA's, so I'm going to be living in New York?"
"Pardon my ignorance, but who is Anna Mitchell?" Frank said as he passed Marina her drink.
"She's the Global Editor for Complete Style magazine, I'm in her office primarily because I speak 7 languages including those CS is starting new editions in."
"Well I always said you weren't dumb Marina...Congratulations."
"And from me," a woman said as she appeared from behind the bar.
"Hi Jackie," Marina hugged the newcomer, "you still haven't divorced him yet?"
"No," the landlady shook her head, "your voice, your clothes, you know I didn't recognise you for a minute. Is Kylie with you?"
“She’s outside – she wanted to check she was allowed in first.”
“Never stopped her in the past,” Frank said.
“That was the old Kylie – you okay if she comes in?”
“Yeah, this I have to see…”
missing something," Kylie sat on a low wall by the railway station talking
to herself as she sketched in her pad, "these kids are wearing a different
street style then I've seen in New York or Hong Kong?"
what she is wearing." Kylie looked at the over-sized top on a girl on the
opposite side of the road. "It's not expensive, but it definitely looks
comfortable and cool to wear," she quickly drew a few lines on her pad.
"Also so much pink of one kind or another, even on men, even here in
Frank says come in please," Marina called.
"Okay darling....just coming," she said as she put her things back in her bag and walked in. Smiling, she said “Hello Jackie darling – you are looking well?”
Both Frank and Jackie looked at the slim blonde, in the polo shirt, designer jeans and jacket, before Frank said “oh my gawd…”
“I know – takes sum getting used to.”
“Hello Mother, Aunt Kerry,” Kylie said as they came in, “I was about to have a Coke – what do you want?”
“Same for me,” Sammi Mitchell said, “I got my six months pin today, so I’m celebrating,”
“Good ter see ye both,” Frank said, “Kerry?”
“Wine is fine, Frank – we’ll go and sit over there…”
“How are you Mother anyway,” Kylie said as they sat down.
“I’m good – even working as a receptionist now at a medical centre. It was either that or flipping burgers with Kerry.”
“And she’s useless at that – there you are!”
"A pint of
the usual please Frank?" Gio called out as he came in.
"And what kept
you," Kerry pretended to pout.
year old model wiv a star complex," the photographer shook his head,
"little sod was tryin' to tell me 'ow to do my own job."
and Kerry get in here enough for you to have a 'usual' Gio?"
finkin of bannin 'em though," Frank called out from behind the bar,
"all that affection is givin Jackie ideas..."
"Oh dear darling," Kylie covered her mouth as she started to laugh.
7.30 pm BST
your illustrations you are going to use Lover?" Sandy stood behind Heather
and looked over her shoulder.
"Yes - including
the new ones of the Rembrandt I shot at the chateau last week," Heather
looked up from her computer. "I hope my visual aids are good enough to
stop my audience nodding off?"
should do," Sandy laughed. "It's nice that you can introduce
aficionados to a largely unknown masterpiece."
largely unknown because it’s been sitting in Valeria's collection all these
years, the quality of the painting though ranks with his very best."
"So on other matters...does all look well for our trip on the tube?"
“It does – Ju and Di are coming with the others Thursday, and we do final briefing that night.”
“She went off with Sands and George – Holly went to see an old school friend for a night out…”
“So we get a few hours to ourselves?”
“Hmmm – got something in mind?”
8.30 pm CET
I hate you both," Carina shook her head as she came into the room with her
you hate darling?"
us Juliette," Molly and Kelsey laughed, "we just told her she's back
in training first thing in the morning."
would do it," Juliette laughed, "by the way congratulations on
winning both regattas."
were wins," Molly shook her head, "but we need to up our game for
when the opposition starts to improve."
"That sounds like my old fencing master," Sigi walked in, "he always stressed that I needed to, and could do better."
“Exactly – onwards and upwards…”
8 pm BST
“Well, I for one think it is wonderful that you can return home at long last,” Paula said as she stood with Agnes and Tamsin, “and the timing could not be better.”
“I still can’t quite believe it myself,” Agnes said as she looked round the room. Paula had called earlier and suggested the travellers meet up with their husbands and other visitors at her flat, to catch up on events.
“Margaret,” Agnes said as she came over to greet the latest arrivals, “I am so glad you could make it – and that your houseguests were able to come as well.”
“Well, it was good of you to invite them as well,” Margaret said. “Pippa and Poppy had to fly back today as well, but they send their love.”
“This is a beautiful flat,” Nessa said as she looked round, and took a glass of wine from the side table, “why did you give it up anyway?”
“Shame – amongst other things,” Aggie said, “but it’s slowly coming back together again.”
“So I hear young Colin has an August wedding planned,” Olivia said as she and Charles stood with Colin’s parents.
“Indeed – Oban Cathedral, and thanks to Agnes her PA can be married out of Ardray.”
“And the timing could not be better,” Charles said, Sir Charles nodding in agreement. “Has there really not been a shoot there for over twenty years?”
“Not since Agnes sold the estate, no.”
“Can someone please explain to a poor befuddled American why this is so important,” Gloria asked as she joined the group. “You all seem so excited about the opportunity to get wet and cold!”
“Ah, the eternal mystery,” Charles Treharran said with a smile. “We need to start from the fact that many estates in Scotland are working estates – farming and the like – but part of that tradition is in managing all the wildlife on an estate. For some, it’s the deer, for others it’s the sheep. But for Ardray and the surrounding ones, it’s about the game birds that nest on the land there.”
“Okay – so while we may have Skeet shooting, you get together to shoot the actual birds?”
“Yes – but it serves a vital purpose as well. The moorland the birds line on needs to be regenerated on a regular basis, and also the factors, gamekeepers, call them what you will, are licensed to control natural predators by shooting them. But they also need to manage the bird population, and the way to do that is by regular shooting within the season?”
“And that season is,” Nessa asked.
“Usually from the 12th of August to the 10th of December. That means the birds have a chance to breed and the young to grow. Hence the term The Glorious Twelfth – the first day of the hunting season.”
“Okay – so how does it work?”
“At one end of the moorland, you have the shooters – lined up, sheltered. At the far end, a team of beaters – their job is to walk towards the shooters, whistling and using sticks to disturb the heather and plants, the birds are chased out, and…”
“It’s very strictly managed, and there is an etiquette to the shoot,” Charles Gresham-Fox said. “But it is a chance to get together – and as my friends says, the moors at Ardray will be teeming with the birds.”
“And do only the men shoot?”
“No – some of the women do as well. I understand your friend Caroline is invited, Olivia?”
“She is,” Olivia said, “Caroline is a first class shot on the Clay Pigeon stand, and she’s jumped at the chance to attend.”
“With the wedding the next day, it means we have the chance for a true Highland gathering…”
“Well, this is a fine gathering,” Shirley said as she came in with John.
far too long since this flat hosted a party," Tamsin embraced Shirley,
"And both new and old friends are more than welcome."
"Well I stopped going to parties for far too many years, I've been trying to make up for that," Shirley smiled as she looked round.
“And how are you Uncle John?”
“Still a bit tired, but a good night’s sleep will deal with that,” John said as he kissed her, and then looked across the room.
me doing what?" Tom Gaunt said as he shook his head.
me at an inopportune moment," Paula tried to smile.
at about her seventh glass of champagne," Olivia laughed lightly.
this modelling thing was a one off?"
was...probably...But a piece in 'Country Life' isn't really like doing
"We had them in a few years ago when they wrote about the Hall Tom, it's a reasonably painless operation." Charles Treharran brought a fresh tray of drinks.
“Oh relax, it could be worse. You could be Will…”
had to change my travel plans," Grace smiled as she chatted with Bobby,
"but it will be so worthwhile if I can help make this a wedding to
outfit and the bridesmaid’s dresses are being done by Kylie?"
will be wonderful Aunt Bobby, Kylie is just so talented."
we all agree," Shirley spoke. "I believe that Kylie and Rose are
taking her to look at fabrics tomorrow."
just see if I can drag along," Bobby sipped her wine, "there is no
way that even Charles can complain about me getting a new outfit made by
Britain's finest young designer."
are letting him get some shooting in," Grace laughed.
Shirley will you be shooting?"
"I might go out with the guns on a couple of days, but I'm long since out of practice at handling firearms."
The Brewster Brownstone
“And we are back,” John said as he opened the door, letting the cab driver put the bags in first.
never more glad to get home," Jeannie yawned as John pushed her into the
kitchen, "that was one hell of a long trip."
was," Barbara sighed as she sat down in a chair.
of you relax,” John said, “while I do the tea and coffee."
are a lifesaver..."
"Hey Mum -
wanna bet on how long before Missy calls?"
"Jeannie darling,” Barbara said as she looked up, “DON'T tempt fate."
9 pm BST
JD you said on the plane you wanted a quiet word...I'm all ears," Cassie
ate a tiny portion of her fish. "Is this about some of our friends? and
what is being planned?"
is actress to actress," JD looked round nervously at the plush restaurant.
"You know I'll never get used to eating in places like this."
think you'll have to," Cassie smiled, "now what is it you want to
I've had a lot of scripts sent to me from all the major studios?"
be wrong of me to turn them all down, and do an Independent production instead?
Will it kill my career before it's really started?"
that's taken your interest?"
chin, Cassie sat back and said "Who wrote it?"
is a very up and coming young writer. What's it about?"
woman raised in a middle-class family in Boston making a trip to try and
connect with her heritage."
"That does sound like a great project, have you discussed it with Maddie yet?"
“Not yet – she’s coming over for the weekend, and we’ll talk then.”
9 pm BST
“That was a wonderful meal Martha,” Mandy said as they made their way into the drawing room of the Bishop’s residence, her and Pepsi wearing long sleeved blue dresses while Martha was wearing a light grey dress, and Angel a green one.
“Well, it gives the women who are here a chance to talk quietly while Will and the boys talk to my husband,” she said as the housekeeper brought some coffee in, and she handed cups round, “I hear there have been some interesting developments with old friends of yours?”
“Ah – you mean Agnes, darling,” Mandy said before she sipped some coffee. “It was a shock to see her recently, but not as much of a shock as it was discovering just who had been behind her troubles for all these years.”
“Oh – anybody we know?”
“I had best not say,” Mandy said as she looked at Pepsi and Angel. “You will have heard the news about Donnie?”
“Appointed Ambassador to France? I had heard – Clive was very pleased. How is his wife?”
“I am not quite sure,” Mandy said, “but the real news you will not have heard is that he was the secret owner of the Ardray estate, and has given it back to Agnes and her sister.”
Martha put her cup down and said “has she really retired from…”
“Indeed – she is turning her considerable intellect to third world finance issues, and she is allowing the other big wedding of the summer to be based at Ardray.”
“And that wedding is?”
“Colin Gresham-Fox and his ex-wife, Susan.”
Martha raised an eyebrow as she said “I had heard he may be standing for parliament, and I have heard stories…”
“Some true, some not – and he is standing for parliament, but not in a safe seat. Watch the papers – particularly this Sunday.”
“I shall watch with interest,” Martha said as the menfolk came in. “Apologies ladies – we felt it impolite to stay out too long,” Clive said as he sat down.
new insights into life at Ordford Pepsi?" Luke Heller asked.
now understand why Mandy describes herself as a farmer’s wife. When I've
visited before I was treated as a guest, but this time I mucked in, and it
really can be hard work."
she can still look this beautiful." Jack smiled.
darling, but I bet you that wasn't what you were thinking a couple of mornings ago
when I fell over in one of the sty's."
be grateful none of us had a camera to hand," Billy laughed.
had darling," Mandy drawled, "there isn't a woman in Britain who
would convict Nicola if she killed you."
"It would be completely justifiable homicide," Martha Heller laughed softly.
“Still, it could have been a stable,” Angel said.
“That would have been preferable,” Pepsi laughed.
Mother and Sister coming back to England Nicola?" Martha asked.
"After a couple of days back home in New York," Pepsi nodded, "Katy has a couple of shoots, then she flies here to do some more, then back home, and after Luke here does a shoot with her then she finally gets to start her real vacation."
“She must be exhausted.”
“She loves it though – and I’m looking forward to seeing Ama over the weekend as well when she comes back from Munich.”
“So what were you talking about,” Luke asked.
“Colin Gresham-Fox and the upcoming wedding at Ardray.”
“I had heard the rumours,” Luke said, “what do you think Father?”
“I am torn,” Clive said, “but the Lord calls on us to forgive the truly penitent, and in the case of his bride to be, and of Agnes McAdam, they deserve second chances.”
Clive," Will nodded.
about your own wedding plans?" Martha looked directly at Pepsi and Jack.
to get married here Martha," Pepsi smiled, "but as to the when? then
who knows. I don't think my school, as liberal as it is, is quite ready for a
want a wedding Martha, look for Judy and my brother to be the first"
"A mere technicality Clive darling," Mandy laughed in her lazy fashion. "One day David will put a ring on her finger."
"I have a
few invitations to go shooting Clive," Will warmed his brandy.
"Including from my boyfriend’s family to shoot at Gilloch," Angel looked skyward, "what was that old saying about wives and mistresses becoming superfluous after mid August?"
“Not this time,” Mandy said, “with the wedding going from Ardray on the 13th, it means a mass gathering at the estate on the Twelfth.”
“On a moor that has not hosted a shoot in decades,” Will said, “a lot of people are excited on that one.”
Wednesday 6th July
11 am BST
Church Street, Marylebone, London
“Ah, now this is a place of true reverence,” Kylie said as she opened the main door, Susan walking in with Rose and Bobbie, “one of the finest drapers in the world.”
“Oh my,” Susan said as Bobbie closed the door, looking at the well dressed assistants talking to customers, and the walls lined with shelves stacked with neatly folded bolts of cloth.
"So if we can't find something to make the dresses out of in here Sue, then I'm assured it doesn't exist." Kylie breathed in the atmosphere of the venerable draper’s shop.
"I had never even heard of Joel & Sons," Sue shook her head.
“They tend to deal to the more – exclusive end of the market,” Rose said, “but Kyles is right – this is the place to look for materials.”
Bobbie nodded as she looked round. “They hold a Royal Warrant as well, so our friends are right to look here.”
“Good morning ladies,” a young red-headed assistant said as she came over, “welcome to Joel and Sons. How can we help you today?”
"This lady,” Kylie said as she indicated Susan, “is getting married in Scotland on August 13th. She doesn't want to wear traditional white, and we also need fabric for five bridesmaid’s dresses. I am assured that you should have something perfect in stock darling."
"Hello Rose...Long time..." another assistant approached. She was older, grey showing in her brown hair, and smiled as Rose stared at her.
Dulcie,” she final said, “you never fetched up 'ere didja?"
"Twelve years now Rose. I’d heard you were back in the business... Eleanor, I will take care of these customers. Would you assist Lady Derby please?”
“Of course, Miss Grey,” the younger girl said as she walked off.
“Now I caught a
bit of what was said, this lady is getting married?"
"She is, and though it’s a church weddin'” Rose said “it's a second for both 'er and 'er 'usband."
“So not the traditional white in that case,” Dulcie said with a smile.
“True,” Kylie said, “but still I believe something along similar lines.”
pale cream perhaps then?" Dulcie spoke.
might work darling..." Kylie smiled as she wiped and put her glasses back
Lord, you are Kylie Mitchell?" Dulcie smiled, "I don't think we've
ever had the pleasure."
"My first time here darling, but to complete the introductions, this is Susan Fletcher, the bride, and Lady Roberta Gresham-Fox, her future mother-in-law."
“A pleasure to meet you all – so, I think we should be able to assist, but what are your thoughts Miss Mitchell?”
“Well, the obvious question is what is the most suitable material…”
things occur to me silk or linen," Dulcie said as she signalled for
another assistant to join them.
look at some of both?" Sue suggested.
"Of course." Dulcie steered them to a low table before saying "and Rose, and Miss Mitchell, can I congratulate you both on winning awards at the CS show?"
“Why thank you darling,” Kylie said as the other assistant brought a number of bolts of cloth over.
“Feel these Susan, look carefully at them, tell me what you think,” Kylie said as Sue and Bobbie looked at the samples.
“It’s good to see you looking so healthy Rose,” Dulcie said, “and so recognised now. You always were skilled before the booze took over.”
amazin' the amount of spare time you get to do fings when you give up the booze
Dulce." Rose smiled.
thinking to include a bolero jacket Kylie, just in case the wedding is a little
inclement," Bobby smiled, "it is after all Oban."
are a little bit of your trademark Miss Mitchell..."
"Alright something like this?" Kylie set her handbag on a counter, got out her pad and started to sketch.
always fancied myself in a large, elegant, hat." Sue mused.
you are heading towards a two-piece then worn with hat Ascot style?"
DEFINITE thought Dulcie," Kylie sketched some more.
"Now this silk is lovely, and so is this linen," Dulcie indicated for the party to inspect the fabrics the other assistant had laid out.
Kylie looked up from the silk, "would this be too hard to get embroidered
"Let me see," Rose adjusted her glasses," well it’s reasonably light weight, but it will still depend on wot you 'ave in mind 'avin' done?"
“Nothing too fancy – a little round the bust line, and a silk rose on the jacket?”
“Hmm – best let them say Kyles.”
then… What does everybody make of this?" Kylie urgently sketched an outfit
on her pad and showed them the tiered dress, white jacket and wide hat.
God!" Sue shook her head. “That
will be amazing?"
the other women nodded.
"Well at least it's a design for us to work from...Now Dulcie do you have an even slightly lighter silk in exactly the same cream?"
“Indeed – with a lace overdress possibly…”
11 am BST
“Excellent – so the plans progress well?”
“They do indeed Madame,” Penny said, “the Farm is ready for guests, and others have been briefed.”
“Excellent. So Lillian...the weapons?"
"I won't be finally happy with until Dominique signs off on them."
"Understood," Madame nodded.
"I think I've found every kind of specialist we have within the organisation who can help with this Madame," Jayne Pettigrew looked up.
"I'm sure you have Jayne," Shirley smiled at her Director of Personnel "And remember that they only need know the specifics of each task they are assigned, everything is on a need-to-know basis."
"Dry runs and rehearsals?"
"Are already under way Madame." Penny nodded.
"I've had a couple of my people from the training division watching and so far, so good." Lily nodded.
"Tamiko is still playing her cards right against her chest...Don't get me wrong,” the tall Russian said, “I like her a lot, but I'd like it better if I could read her mind."
"Tech is ready to go whenever it’s needed, having the Hand in town reassures me that at least from our end nothing will go wrong."
“With luck – plans for diversions?”
“On your desk for approval, Madame,” Penny said.
“Excellent – we liaise with the ladies soon, and we are ready to go. Thank you everyone.”
As the meeting dispersed, Amanda looked in.
“Maddie has arrived Shirley – do you have time to see her now?”
“Indeed,” Shirley said as Amanda opened the door and allowed Maddie to walk in. “Recovered from the flight?”
“A little – Emma’s sleeping, and we’re meeting Cassie later. So, what have I missed?”
“Oh, a few things,” Shirley said with a smile as she pressed the button. “Amanda? Coffee for two please.”
“So what do you want to tell me first?”
“How about something Sandra knew, and I just discovered.”
“Oh,” Maddie said as she sat down, “and what would that be?”
“Who Lady C is?”
Maddie stared at her old friend and said “Really? And who is she?”
“Catriona… The barrister? SHE’S Lady C?”
“Indeed – we have talked, we have made our peace. Also, Agnes McAdam has retired as Lady D’Eath and is working with us as a Sister now, supporting Charlotte with some third world projects.”
“Okay – hang on, Sandy knew and I didn’t?”
“Because they knew you would tell me – I’ll explain it all later, but for now, we have a busy time ahead.”
enough. So when does the first operation
the Madame please when it’s just us Maddie," Shirley laughed.
when does the first operation start...Shirley?" Maddie grinned.
we are snatching the daughter of Arthur Holden."
Holden, now where do I know that name from?"
shady, but just about legal, arms dealer...Big donor as well to a certain
political party, all of which means he has the ear of people who count."
I take it the daughter is the apple of his eye?"
her and then hopefully get a lot of cops chasing their own tails?"
question is the where isn't it? So many surveillance cameras."
we think we have found a spot where a team can take her unobserved."
"Who is leading the team? Anyone I know?"
“I felt it was time to let Beverley spread her wings before she goes to Hong Kong…”
12.30 pm BST
“So are we in agreement Rose?”
“Yea I think so Kyles,” Rose said, “but the real decision lies with you two.”
Susan looked at Bobbie and nodded as she said “sold.”
“I need to get back to work,” Susan said, “can you take it from here Kylie?”
“Of course darling – may I take measurements later today?”
“I’ll get the girls at my place,” Susan said as she went off.
“So, I think we have the details,” Dulcie said, “delivery to CS in your name?”
“Thank you darling – now, how do I pay for the cloth?”
“I’ll charge it to the APCO account, Miss Mitchell – you can reimburse her later.”
“I really do need to consider making my own arrangements for future projects,” Kylie said to herself.
“Well, I cannot speak for New York, but for the UK I am afraid we cannot do that in your name until you turn eighteen, Miss Mitchell.”
“Ah the joy of the finance world,” Kylie said with a smile. “Very well – I shall inform Alice of the charge, and thank you again for all your help.”
“Thank you for choosing us – and Rose, cup of tea some time?”
“You got it Dulcie,” Rose said as they left the store.
“Allow me to buy you both lunch,” Bobbie said as they walked off.
3 pm CET
“I needed this, some time in the fresh air, and we get a chance to talk,” Juliette said as she sat with the others in the main park.
Shirley is basically going to keep the police's attention occupied elsewhere
while we remove the gold?"
the plan Diana," Juliette nodded.
take a cut of the proceeds from the distractions?" Annie asked as she
gently rocked the double buggy with the twins asleep in it.
Shirley will handle all that with her own people."
fair," Carina smiled as she watched Judith throwing bread to the ducks.
not like our shares of the gold will exactly be small." Abigail smiled as
Susan and Clint get to London?"
be in about two hours Diana darling," Juliette looked at her watch.
the phase of an operation that I hate," Dominique sipped her hot
chocolate, "when we are trying to wrack our brains to think of anything
we've forgotten, and that we have covered all contingencies."
"I know." Cari looked serious.
“I do not believe we have forgotten anything, but there is the unknown.”
“Our Japanese friend?”
“Indeed – there is no real way of discerning what she does and does not know, but because Madame has to keep good working relationships, we cannot force the issue. All we can do is watch her, and be ready.”
2 pm BST
are we going to get these made Rose darling?" Kylie sat with the older
woman drinking tea as they considered the drawings.
some ideas Kylie."
Kylie lifted an eyebrow.
the university if I can borrow the room I teach in as a workshop."
sister in so she can practice 'er original trade."
Maeve is trained as a cutter."
think I can find some students who will not mind givin' up summa there summer
'olidays to work on some Kylie Mitchell outfits, it'll look good when they come
to apply fer jobs."
"You know that sounds like a plan that just might work perfectly."
“Good – right, we finish our tea, then I need to head back. Susan and Clint are coming over tonight, and I want to be ready for them.”
2 pm BST
was a morning spent with Kylie Mitchell like Sue?" Agnes asked as they sat
in their new offices.
amazing, she's just so talented, and so professional in her approach."
tell you what you'd look best in?" Agnes asked as she handed Sue a coffee.
listened to all my suggestions, as well as from the others including a couple
of the sales assistants. Then she turned it all into drawings that look
Aggie smiled, "but let's turn to more immediate subjects."
are sending a couple of their people over to help us decide on furniture and
asked Penny to recommend someone who can help us with security."
me and you - a lot of the material we will be handling, rival companies to the
ones that we are working for will do a lot of things to get their hands
"I know you are used to keeping secrets Sue." Agnes smiled.
“But this is a step up right?”
6 pm BST
thought that I'd have to learn how to STOP things being stolen," Sue shook
her head as she and Kay sat outside the wine bar in the late afternoon sun.
the old saying, 'set a thief to catch a thief'?"
guess so," Sue laughed, "but when i was listening to Agnes tell me
how much some of the data and information that I'll be handling is worth to
rivals, I think we chose the wrong kind of theft."
Industrial espionage to the specialists." Kay smiled, "with our
skills it’s a little above our pay grade."
that is true," Sue shook her head.
change subjects, how did the shopping for fabrics go?"
have been asking all afternoon, I think I've run out of different ways of
just wait till you see the designs."
"So who is
"Me, you bridesmaids, and she's doing an outfit for Roberta as well."
“Hard to believe she is doing this, she doesn’t sound like someone we mix with – unless it’s in a professional capacity.”
“We’re just lucky I guess.”
“So – who are you going to ask to give you away?”
“I got an idea,” Sue said nervously, “I’ll know in a while…”
7 pm BST
do I owe this visit Shirley?" Catriona said as she offered her friend a
chair, "didn't John just return..."
and headed straight to bed."
"He has my
sympathies, I've done that trip more than once and it can be a killer."
"Are a lot
happier,” Catriona said “she rang and actually looking forward to school
holidays for once."
glad," Shirley smiled.
Coffee, or something real?" Cat offered.
glass of something real...I'm driving, so just a tiny whiskey with plenty of
Ale," the Scotswoman shook her head, "why do the English ruin our
gift from God."
the last thing I need is a drunken driving conviction," Shirley laughed.
Cat passed Shirley her drink, "but I still think you are drowning
perfectly good whiskey."
the Englishwoman took a sip. "Look the reason I dropped in was to check
out how serious you were about going on a job?"
the barrister sat at attention, "why?"
we are turning over a security van, and I thought it would give you an
Cat took a big swig of her whiskey. "When?"
"All I'll say is in the next few days and it will not clash with your time with Liz."
“Okay – what do I need?”
“To be available to go somewhere when I call, we’ll do the rest…”
7 pm BST
“Thank you doctor,” Donald said as he stood by the telephone table, “I appreciate you calling me to let me know. You say Doctor Gleb will be flying in tomorrow to do a full assessment?
“In that case, I’ll come down and meet you both on Friday before heading up to Scotland. And best not tell Catherine that is why I am meeting with you – or where I am going. She may have a severe aversion to that news.
“I look forward to seeing you then,” he said quietly, “and thank you again.” Putting the handset down, he sighed as he looked at the glass in his hand, and took a drink – then looked to the door as there was a knock on it.
“Now who could that be,” he said as he walked over and looked through the spyhole, then opened the door as he said “it’s Susan isn’t it – Colin’s fiancée from what I hear. Are you here from Agnes?”
“No,” Sue said quietly, “may I come in, Your Lordship?”
“Of course, of course,” he said as he stood to one side.
Donald," Sue asked nervously as he let her into his flat. "I know we
barely know each other, in fact we don't really know each other at all...but
your question Susan," he smiled, "and can I get you a small drink to
"Please...It might help," Sue said as she sat down in one of the antique armchairs.
"Here," Donald said as he poured a very small measure of whiskey into a glass and passed it to her.
you," she said as she took a sip. "Lord
Donald… you know I have no idea of who my father is?"
me Mum gave me away, and is dead now?"
that as well."
Sue took another sip. "Look the nearest thing I have ever had to a real
mum is Agnes..."
"I think a
few people can say that," Donald smiled.
seeing you are Aggie's man...her husband sort of..."
I am," Donald's smile turned to a grin.
“Just don’t let Catherine hear you say that – please.”
"Well with that,” Susan said quietly, “would you give me away?"
"Give me away...PLEASE."
Donald sat down and looked at her, before he said “I would be honoured to do so, particularly from Ardray. I always loved that place.”
“Is that why you bought it? Agnes told me.”
“That and it was wrong she felt she had to lose it for a debt of honour. Mind you, I did not…” Donald fell silent for a moment, before he said “it’s the past. I would be honoured to give you away Susan.”
“Thanks – now I need to head back before Roberta wonders where I am. Sir Charles is in town.”
“So I heard – good luck,” Donald said as she showed her out.
7 pm BST
“Come on in then,” Rose said as she showed her family in, “was it a good flight?”
“Yes, Gramma” April said as she looked round, smiling as she did so.
"This really is a nice flat now Mum," Susan sat down with April in her arms in the front room.
"Yeah,” Rose said as she sat in the chair opposite, “it feels like 'ome."
"Isn't it a bit far out of town Rose?" Clint asked, "considering you don't drive."
really luv, It's only a two minute walk to the tube station, the trains are
regular, and i get to the university and into town dead easy," Rose
laughed, "you know the worst journey is the shortest, coz I 'ave to catch
the bus to Maeve's and i swear to you that service is lousy."
you need extra for taxi's Mum just ask."
"I do get
one occasionally, and Maeve runs me about sometimes, but be 'onest I get round
are the neighbours like Mum?"
treat me like I'm sum kinda celebrity cos I've been on telly a coupla
times," Rose shook her head, "but uvver then that we don't get along
bad, lady upstairs drops in for supper occasionally, and the woman opposite she
comes in sometimes for tea and a natter."
good Rose." Clint smiled.
"Now I got
that fancy coffee in you like, and also milk and juice for my little
angel," Rose said as she took April from Susan.
do drinks for everyone," Clint said as he headed into the small kitchen.
is this i hear you and Kylie have a busy coupla weeks ahead Mum?"
'ave, this other Susan is gettin' married, and despite the fact she aint
knocked up it's still a rush job."
know her very, very, slightly through Penny, and I'm just glad she may at last
be getting some real happiness."
she's a nice girl," Rose smiled as her granddaughter gurgled. "I've
called in a coupla favours and we are doing a little workroom at the
university, and I got some kids cummin' into 'elp."
will get her dress on time?"
8 pm BST
The women turned from their terminals and looked at Charlotte as she came in – and at the tall blonde with her, wearing a black leather jacket fastened over her throat, the leather micro skirt, fishnet stockings and boots. A veil hung from her beret and covered her face, with dark glasses over her eyes.
to the bunker," Charlotte smiled as the heavily veiled woman looked round,
“our operations nerve centre for the next few days."
nice," the Hidden Hand smiled.
let me show you how we can seal this room," Charlotte gestured for her
assistants to leave.
now," Charlotte said as she pressed a button.
Heather sighed as she removed her veil and glasses. "I hate having to
dress up like this."
"Yes, but your secret identity must be protected, even from my people," Charlotte smiled.
“I know – so what’s the first action?”
Charlotte looked at her watch and said “going to happen in about an hour…”
8.30 pm BST
know Susan was going to ask me to give her away darling?"
didn't," Agnes laughed lightly into her phone as she talked to Donald.
she put it was that you were the nearest thing she had to a mother, and that as
'your man' as she put it would I do it."
you said yes, it will mean an awful lot to her."
you'll need an appropriate 'mother of the bride outfit' Aggie."
it will,” Agnes said quietly, “you know I never thought of that."
Susan told me that Kylie Mitchell is designing her dress. Why don't you ask her
Kylie will be rushed off her feet."
have another designer in mind?"
honest Donald...No...fashion is one of those things I gave up for 20
years." Agnes paused, "I suppose I'd better ring Paula, Olivia, and
Mandy, and get their advice."
"It might be an idea darling."
“So what are you doing tomorrow?”
“Starting my briefings, but I’m free tomorrow night if you are…”
“Oh you devil – I’ll see you then,” Agnes said as she put the phone down.
on the phone Aggie?"
he was telling me that Sue asked him to give her away."
was a nice idea, I hope he accepted?"
did Tippy Toes."
it in effect makes me the Mother of the Bride."
"Well I suppose you are darling," Tamsin smiled.
9 pm BST
The Hippodrome, Lancaster Square
Just as there is an axiom that if you want to hold a meeting in secret, do it in a public and crowded place, sometime if you wish to invite someone to come with you without a choice, the best place to do it can be in a crowded place – and as Beverley looked round the Hippodrome Casino, she was pleased at just how busy it was.
She was wearing a Chanel trouser suit over a white jumper and with black ankle boots, looking carefully round as she sat at the poker table, and in particular at the platinum blonde who was sat opposite her. Yvette Holden was in her early twenties, and wearing a tight black dress held up by a single shoulder strap, the hem of the skirt barely covering her upper legs. Those legs were in fishnet stockings, and over the knee black felt boots with a four inch heel.
Bev was admiring her skills as a poker player as well – not quite in the same league as her, but she was holding her own. Tonight however was not just about the cards, but also about business – and as Yvonne collected her ships and stood up, she nodded to two other women who were standing nearby, both wearing black evening dresses and carrying large purses.
“Deal me out,” she said to the croupier, collecting her own chips and passing her a ten pound one as a tip. Makign her way to the cashier’s desk, she smiled as she handed over the winnings.
“Good night tonight, Miss Martello,” the cashier said.
“I came out ahead, which si always a good night,” she said with a smile before she made her way to the bar. “Okay girls, report,” she said as she looked round.
“Mark is at the bar,” she heard in her ear, “ready to move when she does.”
“What about the bodyguard? I saw him watching as well.”
“Dealing with him now,” a second female voice said, as Bev glanced over to see one of the women talking to a very large and well dressed man at the bar.
“Good – collection?”
“Standing by and awaiting the word Boss.”
Bev glanced over to see Yvonne making her way to the bathroom.
“Okay then – we have a go, we have a go.”
As she emerged from the stall, leaning slightly to the side, Yvonne smiled at the young woman who was at the washstand.
“Good night so far,” she said as Yvonne stood and washed her hands.
“Yeah – but I’d better get back before the eyes wonder where I’ve got to?”
“A joke,” Yvonne said as she picked up the small towel and started to dry her hands, the other woman nodding as she walked behind her, and gently pressed the small plaster onto the back of her neck. Yvonne looked into the mirror, checking her lipstick, and then blinked.
And blinked again.
“Are you all right,” the woman asked as she stood by Yvonne.
“I don’t know… I suddenly feel very… Very…”
She fell onto the floor as the woman checked her pulse, and then said “stage 2.”
“Affirmative,” Bev replied as the door opened, and a second woman came in. “Call an ambulance – I think she’s ill,” was heard before they carried Yvonne out between them, the well-dressed man running to the toilet and failing to notice them. As they left the casino, a green and yellow checked mini van drew up, two paramedics coming out and saying “you called 999?”
“Yes – this woman needs to go to hospital now,” was the reply as the rear doors were opened, and a stretcher brought out.
“Problem,” a policeman said as he and his partner walked past.
“Too much alcohol – we’ll get her somewhere to sober up,” the woman replied as she flashed a hospital pass at the policemen, both nodding before they walked off and Yvonne was strapped to the gurney before she was lifted into the vehicle. Bev watched as the woman and one of the paramedics got into the back, and then headed down Charing Cross Road.
“Good work everyone,” she whispered quietly, “return to the Farm for debrief.”
10 pm BST
for ringing Julia," Heather sighed, "I hadn't realized quite how many
friends would want to see me talk, those extra tickets should just about do. So
thank you and don't worry about calling late, good news is worth getting at any
through lover?" Sandy asked as Heather put her cell phone down.
that's one thing you are on top of."
hope I'm on top of everything," Heather flipped her laptop on.
going to be a challenging period, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need
it lover, Charlotte and Doc are both here so you don't have sole
"I know," Heather gently kissed her girlfriend.
Thursday 7th July
1 am BST
Charles Wilson Engineers
Uxbridge Road, Hayes
Walking round the empty yard, Barbara shook her head. She didn’t really mind doing the night-time security shift, but it did mean she didn’t have much of a social life – and for the fifty-nine year old, that meant a lot, especially after her recent third divorce.
She shone the torch round the yard, highlighting the sides of the cherry pickers and forklift trucks. Why on earth they thought anyone would want to steal these machines was something that eluded her. Yes, they were expensive, but seriously? Why would anyone?
As she walked round to the portacabin used as an office, she really only had one thought on her mind – the flask of coffee and the chance to watch something on the DVD player before she did the next round.
She walked into the cabin – and stared at the two black clad women who were waiting there, balaclavas covering their heads as they looked at her.
“Shit,” Barbara said as she reached for her night stick – only to find the holder empty, as she turned to see a third woman close the door. Barbara was not a slim woman, but as she looked at the women, slim, muscles showing under the tight jumpers, and she nodded.
“It is not worth it,” one of them said, “allow us to go about our work, and keep you out of the way.”
“How?” Barbara immediately regretted the question as she saw the second woman holding up a large roll of duct tape, and she felt the third woman pulling her hands behind her back.
“Wise decision,” was the response as she heard the sound of the tape been ripped free, and then her wrists as they were taped securely together. She was wearing a blue jacket and pants with a lighter blue shirt underneath, but as the tape was wound round her to secure her arms, the jacket opened and moved to the sides.
“sit down,” the leader of the group said as Barbara was pushed toward a wooden chair, sitting herself down before more tape was sued to secure her to the chair back by one masked woman, the second sitting down and taping her ankles to the chair legs.
“Open your mouth.”
“Btwwhhthoopsnnffennnttspt,” Barbara said as a sponge was pushed into her mouth, and the tape wrapped tightly round her head.
“Don’t” was the response as Barbara controlled her breathing, remembering her training. She watched as the woman turned on the player, and inserted a disc, before she went to the key cupboard and removed two sets. As the first episode of Game of Thrones started, the three women slipped out, leaving Barbara in the darkened room to watch…
“Bring the van round,” the leader said to one of the women, then headed with her other partner to where a line of small palette lifters was parked. Throwing one of the the two sets of keys to her, she said “you disabled the CCTV, right?”
“Of course I did,” she said as they each started one of the vehicles, and moved silently across the yard towards the main gates, where a large truck was waiting. They moved out, driving the palette lifters up ramps and into the back of the truck, before locking them into place and leaving from the back.
“Okay – get them to the delivery point,” the leader said, the driver nodding as they closed the rear and watched the van drive off. “Good job ladies – see you all tomorrow at work.”
7.45 am BST
Benenden School, Cranbrook
“So what are you going to wear to the wedding of the season,” Liz said as she sat down at the breakfast table.
“Which one,” Kit asked as Liz laughed.
Mummy thinks I'm going to go to a wedding wearing anything I currently own she
has another thing coming," Eve Gaunt shook her head as she poured her
breakfast cereal. "She MUST take me shopping in London before we go back
in the same boat," Aileen spoke.
at your age it isn't quite as important..."
"Oh Oh," Liz looked at Kits, "stand ready for an explosion."
“Excuse me,” Aileen said as she looked at her sister, “at my age? I’m fifteen in two months time, Big Sister – a couple of years older than certain models who will be there, and it’s not quite as important…”
“I need coffee,” Kit said as she stood up.
“Me too,” Liz said as Aileen looked at Eve, and said “oh we are all going shopping, unless you want to find out just how angry I can get…”
8 am BST
“Thanks for joining me kids,” Rose said as she finished her tea, “I wasn’t sure if you would be free, but I’m glad you are.”
really happening Rose?" Eric Smith shook his red haired head, "me and
Linds get to help work on some Kylie Mitchell designs?"
pinchin' myself to check," Lindsay Poindexter looked a trifle stunned.
both did so well at your school fing, I thought you'd not let anyone
won't let you down Rose."
Eric,” Rose said as she picked up her coat, “now yer mums know what time we'll
be back so they can come pick you up?"
do," Lindsay nodded.
"Well cum on then," she said as she picked her keys up, “we better 'ead to the university. I have a couple of me students from there meetin' us along wiv my sister, Kylie, and a couple of model friends of 'ers we'll be usin'."
8.30 am BST
Rutland Street, Kensington
the rush this morning?" Sue smiled as Colin tried to do half a dozen
things at once.
keep a secret?" he asked as he took a drink of his coffee.
eyebrow, Sue simply said "Colin?"
stupid question," he smiled. "Well the panic is because the daughter
of a friend of Peter Latimer's was kidnapped last night. There is a big police
operation going on to find her."
does that affect you darling?"
he's a big donor to the party,” Colin said as he sat at the table, “and he
knows a whole lot more grandees then just Sir Peter, and we are being asked to
go back over our correspondence and files to see if we have any pertinent
information, it's unlikely, but a top level thing like this we are required to
rather you then me," Sue smiled as Colin tried to put his shoes on, eat
some toast, and check his briefcase all at once.
your plate?" he finally said as he stood up.
with the decorators regarding the new office, Agnes trusts my taste she says in
painting, carpets, etc."
turn to say rather you then me," Colin smiled, "definitely not
something I'd want to do."
let my son chose anything in that way," Lady Roberta smiled as she stood in
the doorway, "I swear at times he is colour blind."
with you Mother?"
darling, I just wanted to see Sue."
suppose you asked the taxi to wait?"
needed at work urgently," Sue got up and went to the coffee maker. "It's
freshly made Roberta, want some?"
I'll need to see if I can find a cab," Colin kissed his mother, then gave
Sue a longer one before running out of the house.
least we can have a quiet chat," Bobby smiled as she sat down, "so
how did it go?"
couldn't get the words out, but yeah he said it'd be an honour."
he might," Roberta sipped her coffee. "So what is the flap on? My
husband has been getting calls all morning, and now Colin is in a rush?"
know," Sue shrugged her shoulders.
"That isn't bad," Roberta laughed, 'but you'll have to work on your innocent denial a bit more. I know from experience when I’ve being told to keep secrets.”
“All he would say is it was a legal matter,” Sue said with a smile, “party issues.”
“So that’s why Charlie’s in a tizz,” Bobbie said as she shook her head, sat down and took the coffee.
9 am BST
Xavier International, The Aldwych
last night fully successful?" Madame asked as she addressed her full managerial
assessment it was," Penny spoke.
Shirley glanced down at the papers in front of her. "Now before we really
get started on business I want to welcome both Madeline and Susan, it's nice to
have the heads of both our main overseas branches with us here at head
Madame," they both replied and nodded.
also like to welcome our other guest. She is of course a legendary figure, but
for those of you who have never met her, may i present the Hidden Hand?"
There was a
small ripple of applause as the Hand nodded and crossed her legs.
"We are in
the midst of a flurry of activity as you know, devised as a way of diverting
the attention of the authorities from what might be considered the biggest
operation ever undertaken by an organisation such as ours, the acquisition of
over two billion pounds worth of gold."
Madame," Jayne Pettigrew shook her head, "but that amount still blows
"Yes it is
rather staggering," Shirley smiled, "but anyway let us proceed."
sources tell us that the Police are on high alert and searching hard for our
captive," Natalya spoke.
"She is at
Madame," Natalya nodded.
how are the plans for this afternoon?"
looks good, I was wondering..."
you know I dislike harming innocents, but this particular gentleman is someone
who fully deserves being sanctioned." Shirley looked hard at the Northern
woman, "Is there a problem?"
Madame, it will go as we have planned it." Lily swallowed hard.
and I will conduct an operation tonight to see how badly we can affect the
traffic control system."
also be experimenting to see if we can maintain clean passages in case escape
routes might be needed," the American voice behind the veil spoke.
"So how do
we all get home tonight?" Lynn Bartram the head of internal security
"Slowly," Charlotte laughed.
“Very well then – be aware that this weekend is going to be one of the most complicated and busiest we have ever been involved in. Be alert and ready. Thank you everyone – Susan, Madeline, would you come with me please?”
“Of course Madame,” they said as they followed Shirley to her office. As they approached, Amanda said “I showed her in as you asked, Madame.”
“Excellent,” Shirley said as they walked in to find Sandra waiting for them.
“Well met,” she said as she hugged Susan and Maddie, “so why are we meeting separately?”
“To confirm your part in this weekend’s activities Sandra,” Shirley said, “and also so that you can confirm what I have already told Maddie, and what I need to tell Susan.”
“And that is,” Susan said as she sat down.
“The identity of Lady C – she’s actually Catriona Cuthbertson, QC.”
Susan looked round the room, and said “how did…”
“Long story for another time,” Shirley said, “but she was instrumental in helping Agnes McAdam regain her former standing, or at least to begin to. We are now beginning the process of aligning our objectives to each other, and she is no longer on the threat list.”
Susan looked at Maddie, who nodded and said “I know – I was shocked as well, especially at you Sandy and at Penny.”
“We needed to do it, and it worked,” Sandy said quietly. “Anyway – yes I have found a team of four who wish to graduate doing the job you’ve assigned them.”
“And that job is,” Maddie asked. Shirley picked a manila folder up and took from it a picture. It was a family picture – the grey haired Japanese man standing with four women. The oldest wore an olive green jacket and skirt over a black blouse with gold trim, and black felt boots. To the right of her and the man was a woman in her early thirties, wearing a grey leather jacket over a cream jumper, a pleated black skirt that came over her knees, and black riding boots. To her left was a younger woman, wearing a blue tartan pinafore dress over a grey roll neck sweater, and knee length black boots.
“The gentleman is Osaki Tanamura, a leading industrialist. In the picture are his wife and two daughters, who are here on a cultural vacation. What do you think would happen is, in the midst of all the chaos, they went missing?”
“They’d use every resource they could to… This is get Tamiko Tanaka off our trail, isn’t it?”
“Hopefully for enough time for the work to be completed,” Shirley said.
11.30 am BST
Xavier International, The Aldwych
“Come in,” Lily said as she looked out of her window.
the problem Lily?" Susan asked as she looked round her friend’s office
door, "you looked rough at the meeting."
operation this afternoon," Lily sighed, "it's the sort of thing
Dominique has always done before, not me."
was there in Philadelphia remember?"
you were Susan,” Lily said, “but this is a copper, and it’s a whole new kind of
get that, want me to help?"
Madame I think is testing me, so I'll do it as planned with the team I've
"Lily,” Susan said quietly, “as I've learned, in our business we can't be squeamish... and anyway this copper sounds like a bad seed."
“Yeah – I asked Uncle George about him,” Lily said as she looked at the photo on her desk, “he said he was also a bad one.”
“Well then, do the job, and move on,” Susan said as she looked at the file, “I think the world may be a better place without DS Bennett in it.”
1 pm BST
“So Donald is going to give Sue away?”
“He is… So everything is making me look like the
bride’s mother girls, what should I do about clothes?" Agnes asked as they
sat out on the restaurant’s terrace in the lovely bright sunshine.
current designers turn your fancy darling?" Mandy drawled.
the problem,” Agnes said as she sat in her dress. “I gave up reading the glossies years ago
because I hated seeing pictures of you all, and reading stories about former
friends and acquaintances who now thought I was a true lowlife."
you are socially acceptable again, you really do need to start staying au
courant Aggie. Even in the depths of Cornwall I at least subscribe to all the
magazines." Olivia smiled.
having hers and the bridesmaid’s dresses designed and made by Kylie Mitchell
darling, and so is Bobby."
absolutely brilliant," Paula nodded.
I've heard of her, but won't she be snowed under, especially as I hear she's
working on the di Cambrello and Borbon weddings as well?"
true," Olivia took off her large glasses and played with them. "Look
girls you know I'm Nick's spokesmodel, I wonder if he might?"
Nick?" Agnes asked.
he's a really extremely talented American designer, and you know he might be
perfect for you." Mandy smiled.
"Especially as he's coming to London tomorrow for a media event," Olivia replaced her glasses, “I'll make sure he sees you Aggie to discuss this."
“I’ll take all the help I can get – Sherry, you look flustered.”
late girls," Sherry Babbage looked slightly ruffled as she joined her
friends on the terrace overlooking Hyde Park.
you darling," Agnes stood up and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
but it was chaos at home, Mike got a call from the Yard at four o'clock this
morning calling him in."
like something big, did someone get murdered? I didn't hear anything on the
radio," Olivia moved to let her old friend pull a chair up.
me, I'm only a copper’s wife," Sherry smiled, "all we ever get told
is not to worry."
tea?" Paula offered.
case," Paula signalled to a waiter, "can we have a fresh pot of tea
"Certainly your Grace," the man said before he hustled off.
“So,” Paula said, “you and Tammy ready for the weekend?”
“Nope,” Agnes said, “but we both need to do this. You looking after the girls while Kit comes with us?”
“Oh yes – and there will be much pain,” Paula said quietly, “because they want to go shopping for clothes for the weddings.”
“Rather you than me,” Mandy drawled, “at least I only have me and Angel to sort out.”
“So is Naples a full authentic show?”
“I think so, given the ceremony is in the Basillica. Apparently young Winston Brewster has been fitted out for the court jacket with Piet this morning.”
“Now I imagine that was a sight to behold,” Olivia said with a smile.
“So, as our hostess,” Sherry said as she looked at Agnes, “what are you going to arrange while those who are shooting shoot on the day before?”
“Let me see what the place is like first,” Agnes said with a grin…
2 pm CET
and Ingrid be alright darling?"
we will Klaus," Juliette smiled, "we are just flying to London with
Diana and Abigail, we stay overnight, go to Nick's infomercial launch tomorrow
and we will be home in the afternoon."
practically commuting for the next few days."
Juliette said, “but I want to spend as much time here as I can here with the
comes Ingy gets to go and I don't?" Carina asked as she fed Mags.
you have your race in the morning darling..."
be in London."
just nerves Cari, you heard what the girls said, you'll be fine," her
father patted her hand.
"Yes but what about the race in England next week, that's a whole step up in class?"
“Deal with tomorrow first, the rest will come…”
1.30 pm BST
Complete Style UK
“Anna Mitchell’s office,” Marina said as she picked up the phone, “Marina Sowkowski speaking.”
“Very professional,” she heard Kylie saying.
"So how is
it going?" Marina asked.
darling," Kylie drawled down the phone, "we are making up the dresses
in a very cheap cloth and fitting them so we can pull them apart once we are
satisfied and create the patterns."
but we have to do this so as Maeve will have patterns to work from when she
gets to the real fabrics."
you guys then me." Marina laughed lightly.
"So how is
your day going?"
ask...I've spent most of the morning on the phone to Moscow trying to tell them
how we expect them to keep us informed."
"I think I prefer what I'm doing."
“Still on for tonight?”
“Oh yes – a night at a concert is just what I need, especially with Ama and Caroline…”
2.30 pm BST
St Pancras International Station
“Well, here we are again,” Caroline said as the train pulled up to the platform, before she and Ama stood up.
“Back for a few days,” Ama said as she stretched and collected her bag. “Where are we staying this time?”
“The Savoy – lot to do this weekend.”
“Indeed – I am sure Maisha and Nyala will keep me busy as needs be,” Ama said with a grin as they went to collect their cases.
“I am sure they will as well, but first work as Caroline – and the concert tonight.”
As they came through the station, Caroline picked up an early edition of the Evening Standard.
“May got the job? Lord help us all…”
2.30 pm BST
"So how do we whack a copper without it looking like Agnes had anything to do with it?" Maddie asked Shirley.
"With extreme care and some appropriate witnesses," Shirley said as they walked to her office.
As DS Robert Bennett walked out of the Westfield Mall, and onto the former Olympic Park, he wasn’t sure quite why he was there. He had been suspended and interviewed after he was stopped at that bitch’s flat, and all Catherine had said was “do better.” He’d been here every day since, with nothing else to do, trying to put some sort of routine in place.
She was a bitch as well, but Babbage had him over a barrel. All he could do was hope and pray…
There was a fair crowd of people out, enjoying the sunshine, as he passed the entrance to the London Stadium, and saw two young girls standing by the entrance. Dressed in micro skirts, short tops and thigh high boots, they looked a little out of place out of Soho, but he thought he recognised them, and walked over.
“Hey – what are you two pros doing here,” he said as he came closer.
“Who’s asking,” the blonde haired one said.
“I am,” Bennett said as he showed them his warrant card.
“Shit – look, we’re just trying to make a living…”
“Yeah, well – you want to walk, you do something for me, all right?”
The blonde looked at the redhead, and said “like what?”
“Are you that stupid,” Bennett sneered, “where are you working from?”
“Over there,” the redhead said as she indicated a van parked to the side.
“Right – let’s walk,” he said as he took them both by the arm and forced them towards the side doors, people watching as they did so. “And this one’s a freebie, understand?”
“All right, all right,” the blonde said as she put her hand on the side door. “You’re a real bastard, you know that?”
“So I’ve been told.”
“Good,” she said as she pulled the door open – and Bennett caught a glimpse of a stocking masked figure before the shots rang out, two bullets in his chest and two in his head. A young girl screamed as her mother held her, while Bennett fell to the ground and the two prostitutes jumped in, a small crowd of people running over as the van drove off at speed.
“You all right Lily,” the blonde said as her boss pulled the mask off.
“I will be – inform Madame the job is done.”
3 pm BST
for helping Peri," Sue said as she leaned back in her chair and relaxed.
got recent experience getting an office up and running from scratch,”
Francesca’s PA said, “and with the boss in Italy today I had the day off, so
when Aggie asked me to come over..."
came," Sue laughed.
thing I did as well, you wouldn't have had nearly enough shelf space
really going to need that many books?"
surprised Sue, and you'll be using them as well. I'm forever in and out of our
library at Lancaster Gate."
I will," Sue said as she finished her sandwich. "It's one of the
several new experiences I have to look forward to."
be...but first your wedding, then the honeymoon?"
are you going?"
"As in the
Sue laughed, "as in Penny's country cottage."
different," Peri said as she shook her head.
know," Sue laughed, "but it's beautiful, it's quiet, and we can have
a relaxing few days just us together."
"You make it sound perfect." Peri sighed, "lovely and romantic."
“So long as she hides her video collection – Colin would have a heart attack if he saw it…”
3.15 pm BST
"As if we
didn't have enough shit going on with this kidnapping that bleeding idiot
Bennett gets himself killed," Mike Babbage groaned as he looked at the
chance it was your friend Lady D'eath Sir?" the young DC said.
chance,” Mike said, “she was across town with someone whose word I trust
he said as he backed off, “I think we can safely rule her out then as the
hitter, but could she have authorised it?"
"No not her style, she wanted to get Bennett back it would involve a locked room and some real pain." Mike stood up from where he had been squatting, looking at the chalk outlines, and looked round, "I can think of a lot of his so-called friends though who might have wanted to shut him up."
“What about – her?”
“Dominique? Again, not her style. She’s a professional assassin – all the times I’ve seen her work, it’s up close with a knife or from a distance with a gun. Besides, reports have her stateside at the moment.”
"Well the Guvner is going to be all over this Sir, you know that even if he was a dirty cop, it looks bad when one of our own gets whacked in broad daylight."
“Tell me about it,” Mike said quietly. “Statements?”
“Plods taking them now sir?”
“Okay – get the Doc to forward autopsy results as soon as possible, and I need the forensics report sharpish. Not a lot more I can do here – best go and face the music.”
“In what way sir?”
4 pm BST
Paddington Police Station
“He’s dead,” Agnes said as she sat with Sherry in her husband’s office.
“He is - Aggie
I just have to ask formally if you had anything to do with this murder?"
Agnes said quietly, “I thought the days of me getting hauled in were
"So did I
Mike," Sherry said as she looked daggers at her husband.
didn't send a car to pick you up Aggie, I did just ring you to drop by."
felt like a summons DCI Babbage."
Aggie, but knowing how things were between you and him, I had to ask."
have Donald coming for dinner Mike, and if I'm definitely not a suspect, can
you please keep my name out of this?"
Aggie, that's all I can say."
a female detective came in, "my best snitch is saying this was definitely
someone trying to shut Bennett up before he got asked certain questions."
hearing the same guv," another cop came in, “definitely a gangland hit to
shut up a bent copper."
Mike hit the table.
"May we go Mike," Sherry asked pointedly.
“Yeah – and I’m sorry again Aggie.”
“I know,” Agnes said as they left the room.
4 pm BST
ladies start running those codes." Charlotte gave the order as the various
screens in the Bunker started to show the feed from traffic cameras all over
happens first Charlotte?" a brunette looked up.
what happens when a couple of traffic signals at important intersections stop
working," the Hand answered.
"Shall we start at Trafalgar Square, and at the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road," Charlotte pressed some keys and watched.
“Ouch – problems already,” one of the girls said as the traffic ground to a halt. “where else?”
“Hyde Park Corner?”
“Let’s do it,” Charlotte said as she entered the commands and watched.
looks messy," one of the techs smiled as they looked at the pictures of
the pair of accidents at Hyde Park Corner.
know," Charlotte laughed, "however were the lights green both ways
for a few seconds?"
doesn't look like anyone was hurt Charlotte, but it’s going to cause chaos till
"That's the point of this exercise Louise, to see what happens and how the police react."
The Hand smiled as she said “so far, so good…”
you do the hit Lily?" Caroline shook her head as she sat in Lily’s office
and said "Why?"
Lily said, “to prove that I would do it."
she knew i was coming into town?"
our Lily has the balls," Penny said as she joined them, Helen following as
they closed the door. "Lily I'm
breaking a confidence, and a rule, but a promotion is coming your way, Madame
wanted to know though you'd have the intestinal fortitude for the job."
job?" Lily looked surprised.
putting together an action division that will take on urgent tasks," Penny
smiled, "It will be your team."
surely operations, or security handle that?"
is going to be a rapid response thing for when the unexpected happens and
something needs doing fast."
Lily," Helen smiled.
so, I'm a bit stunned, I just thought she had the idea I was a little
soft," Lily shook her head.
will announce it next week, and then you'll need go through the files with
Jayne as you pick your team." Penny took a sip from her glass and
continued "I recommended you as the person to do this so please don't let
"I think you can do it as well," Dominique smiled warmly.
need to be an elite team Lily," Penny added, “similar to Maddie’s West
Coast strike group.”
"Why do I
hear the words 'the farm' coming on," Lily groaned.
than that,” Penny said, “we are going to send you all to 'them' for a training
"Penny,” Lily said as she looked skyward, “I love you dearly, and thank you for your confidence, but can I also right now hate your guts?"
“Oh hold onto that,” Dominique said with a smile, “you’re gonna need it…”
5 pm BST
Paddington Police Station
you be totally sure Agnes McAdam wasn't there Mike?" the Chief
Superintendent asked as he sat on the other side of the desk.
order of social precedence,” Mike said as he counted off on his fingers, “the
Duchess of Lardarn, the Marchioness of Ordford, Lady Treharran, and a certain
Mrs Babbage can all say they were with her at a long, jolly lunch overlooking
Sir, do you want to be the one to bring them in to try and break Aggie's
rather not Mike," the older man laughed slightly, "why does it never
rain but it pours...First a kidnapping, then a cop gets shot, and now they are
telling me that the traffic is chaos in the West End?"
"As you say Brian," Mike shook his head, "so a lot of coppers will be working overtime tonight?"
"I'd guess so. What about you?"
“I need to face the wife…”
7 pm BST
The Babbage Residence
Mike looked over at Sherry as they ate their meal, and said “Penny for them?”
“We were having a wonderful day, Agnes was more open than she had been for years,” his wife said quietly, “and then you had to go and ruin it!”
"Sherry!... I had to do it," Mike Babbage looked over the table at his wife.
"You did? You had to humiliate her by calling her into Scotland Yard Michael?"
"Given her history with the dead man...then yes...as I said at least I didn't send a car to bring her."
"No you made me do the dirty work for you," Sherry glared.
darling, I apologise."
Agnes you need to be apologising to," Sherry growled, "will there
ever come a day when something happens to someone that she might just have
known, that she won't come up on your stupid computer screens as a
not..." Mike said quietly, and instantly regretted it.
darling,” Mike said as he rubbed his eyes, “like it or not, in her years of exile
Agnes has mixed with some people, in fact a lot of people who don't always keep
within the law. It's one of the reasons she knows she can't marry Donald."
"And I say that is UTTER RUBBISH," Sherry fumed.
“I agree, and I said it was one of the reasons – Catherine been the other big one. I’m trying to get as much heat off her as I can, Sherry…”
“I know – it’s just so unfair…”
8.30 pm BST
Donald,” Agnes said as they sat together on the long couch, “it was so
wonderful having such a long period with the girls today, I don't think even I
realised how much I'd missed them all for all these years."
"And I'm not sure they quite realised how much they missed you." Donald put his hand on hers. "So what did you all talk about?"
"Oh they filled me in on a lot of gossip, we talked about our schooldays, you know all the things real friends do."
"I'm glad. It’s all part of you finding yourself again
after all these years Agnes."
talked me into seeing an American designer called Nick Wu tomorrow about
getting some clothes made ahead of Susan's wedding. He's in London to launch
the Infomercial most of them appear in."
and shook his head at the same time. "I
hear even brother Will appears in the film."
says," Agnes smiled broadly, "according to her he hated every
told me at the time."
Agnes said as she looked at him, “how did your day go?"
Donald sighed, "I think my political lords and masters are still making
policy straight out of their heads."
you the chaos the referendum result would cause darling."
usual you are perfectly right Aggie, and you are probably better informed then
"No, but I
think I have a clear perspective on the utter shambles that the next couple of
years will be."
the time you would have really come into your own if we'd..."
didn't - did we Donald?" Agnes interrupted in a whisper.
he sadly shook his head, "and even if she was sane, you know Catherine
never took any interest in other then the social side of my work."
"Well I can be your very unofficial policy advisor Donald," Agnes forced herself to smile, "my door will always be open to you."
“Thanks – did you hear who our new leader is going to be?”
“Teresa – could have been worse. Could have been Boris,” Aggie said as the door to the flat opened, and Tamsin came in.
10 pm BST
Bayswater – Catriona Cuthbertson’s flat
The glass of whisky on the bedside table was half-finished, Catriona sitting there with her glasses on, wearing a blue dressing gown as she scribbled on a legal pad.
things I should do...Too few things I actually want to do." Catriona
looked at the list of things on the pad. "Starting with making things up
with Elizabeth," she said aloud, "what good is it if I make peace
with my daughter, and not with her?"
She remembered some of the recent, tense exchanges they had had. With her coming down at the weekend to see Liz before she left for Ireland, she knew the time was right to start to build bridges, but still…
why is life this complicated?" she looked heavenwards. "I don't
dislike your mother, it's just that going to Melhorn reminds me of you so
For a few moments Cat leaned back against the pillows and cried... Her beloved Jamie, the only man she had ever loved, the only man she had even ever gone out with. She just wished that for ten minutes he could be there beside her on the bed.
Oh she missed
his gentle caresses that were matched in her mind by the only other person she
had ever made love to, so very, very, much. Had Jamie ever guessed at her
secret teenage passion? If he had he'd never said.
What would he
make of this latest exploit, would he have understood that crime was a release
for all the frustrations and tensions within her, that she needed to let so
much go inside with an act of pure evil?
No, Jamie would not understand, Shirley did though. Shirley with her own life of pain and grief understood perfectly what swirled inside her head, they both shared the same busted sense of what was right and wrong. If there was a deity he, or she, had never played fairly with their lives, why in return should they play life's game according to the rules?
“I hope you forgive me though,” Catriona said quietly. “So many ways I have let this hurt grow in me, it needs to be discharged so I can move on.
“No – so we can move on. Liz is so much your daughter, Jamie, so much like you…”
She started to gently cry as she looked at his picture, restored to her bedside table. Kissing her fingers, she pressed them to his face, and then lay on her side, remembering the good times…
11 pm CET
Castella di Cambrello, Naples
Francesca lay back on her bed, the windows of her room open to the heavy, humid, Neapolitan night, and she dreamed of that one night she and James had spent together in this bed, that night of steamy passion following her wedding, in which she had finally given up her virginity.
everything, how gentle James had been, how he held her tenderly as she absorbed
the pains of losing her hymen, then the quickening pace as he had brought her
to a screaming orgasm.
Her Mama had
told her just how magical the sex act was with a man you truly loved, and she
had not been proven wrong. Dona Carlotta had been right about so many things,
why had she, Francesca, not been able to follow her example?
Even as she asked the question, however, she knew the answer. She had made her decisions, and followed the path that had seemed to be laid out for her – and paid the price far too many times.
And now she could begin to make up for those lost times in some way…
darling, wherever you are, I so hope that you'll somehow be walking alongside
our daughter as she is married," she whispered. "the arrangements are
in place, everything would be truly perfect if only it was you taking her to
give to Pieter, John is a wonderful friend, but this should be your moment."
In that moment she imagined his touch on her body, his whisper as he said “of course I will be there, my love.”
ever tell you what Papa told me before we started that long walk up the
aisle?" she smiled to herself, "he told me if I had any doubts that I
didn't love you totally that it still wasn't too late to back out. I whispered
back to him that it would be impossible for me never to not be in total love
“I know – and I with you, despite all.”
Sighing she thought of her years of promiscuity, but she had never brought a man to this room, to this bed. This place remained special, it remained sacred to her true love – and always would.
11 pm BST
to the traffic, still passing in front of her building even at this time of
night, and sighed. Donald had remained a true gentleman despite her clear
invitation to him to share her bed. It was almost like 20 years ago, they had
had a lovely evening, but he'd returned to his own place.
She knew that
he loved her...She was pretty sure he desired her...She couldn't think though
what was restraining him. Their old pact wasn't valid, she could never be his
wife, dream as she might that her life had been fully restored to her.
Catherine remained a fact, she existed, she was in that clinic, and Donald was
too much the gentleman to divorce her, to take advantage of her madness, to
ride himself of her.
Maybe Catherine was the one who should have been killed, not that bastard Bennett?
realised, that was wrong of her to think.
Whatever Catherine had done to hurt her, Agnes knew inside she would
never herself see harm done like that, even to the woman who separated her from
Lightly she touched her own body, her eyes closed as she imagined that it was Donald's fingers touching her… Tears of frustration though soon came as she remembered that while the flat might be different, her bed was just as empty as it had always been in Paddington.
“Someday, one day, Goddess willing,” she said quietly to herself. For now, she knew she had friends again, a life again – and in the morning, she would see her children again.
11 pm BST
Catherine lay on the white sheets, thinking again and again over the events of the day. This new doctor, the woman – Serena Gleb, that was her name – she had spoken to her for some time, but Catherine had seen she was thinking the worst of her.
She had managed to hear something of the conversation between her and the other doctors – enough to know she thought Catherine was a danger. Well, she was – but not to her, not if she stayed out of her way.
As for other events – the news had told her of the death of Robert Bennett. That was unexpected – she had plans for him, but now they would come to nothing. She would have to do more herself now – and there was much for her to do.
Donald had been given the ambassadorship – and her place was by his side. She just had to ensure she was there – after she had taken care of business.
Her hand slipped between her legs as she thought of what she would do to Agnes and her family – so many things she had planned before their canker was removed from her life forever. For now, she had to continue to not take the pills and act as if she was drugged.
Her opportunity would come soon enough…
Friday 8th July
8 am BST
all for coming," Shirley smiled as she admitted Heather and Charlotte,
"the others are here already."
invitation for breakfast in your home Madame is a rare privilege," Heather
the traffic wasn't too bad?" Shirley laughed lightly.
Madame it was pretty good." Caroline slipped her jacket off and hung it up.
through, Clint is actually cooking for us."
always welcome news," Heather sniffed the air.
Susan." Charlotte embraced her friend and asked, "where is
the morning being fussed over by her grandmother and Aunt Maeve while they
all enjoy that."
coffee," Penny called out as she and Maddie emerged from the kitchen
carrying trays, "Clint says we can eat in fifteen minutes."
"Good," Shirley smiled, "gives us a chance to assess how last night went."
“Well, the test of the traffic programs worked well,” Heather said as she sat with Charlotte. “We can create chaos with only a small problem.”
“So I found out trying to get home last night,” Shirley said. “Our guests at the farm?”
“She’s comfortable,” Penny said, “the ransom demand was delivered last night.”
“Good – three more guests will join them today. Please let Tracey know.”
“What about the shooting,” Susan asked.
“It has upset and confused the police by all accounts. Bennett will be missed and not missed in equal measure, and we have given names of some people who may have wished him ill. The one drawback was that Aggie was called in by Mike Babbage – but it was soon cleared.”
“So we are moving ahead,” Maddie said, “what of today?”
“Today is mainly about giving Tamiko Tanaka something to think about – but tomorrow, there is an armoured car robbery planned for the City. And, of course, the ladies will be getting to work – on which note, Penny?”
“The equipment is ready to move in Shirley. Dom has cleared the weapons as well.”
“Okay – Charlotte, perhaps testing the approach to the Blackwall Tunnel and Baker Street where it meets Marylebone Street?”
9 am BST
of the year...YAY!" Aileen said as she sat on her trunk and shut it.
"London here we come."
too happy quite yet, remember we are all having dinner with my grandmother
tonight," Lizzie reminded her friends.
my Mummy, and Aunt Aggie will be there, along with Eve and Aileen's parents,
that should stop any tension between your Mummy and Grandmother," Kit
"Just think though tomorrow we get to go shopping?" Eve grinned.
“All of us,” Aileen said in a dangerous voice.
“Yes, all of us. Come on – half day of lessons to get through…”
10 am BST
Café de Paris
“I suppose if you are going to premiere an infomercial about Paris Fashion, this is the place,” Juliette as she and Ingrid walked into the large vaulted room, smiling as they joined Mandy and Angel.
“You made it darling,” Mandy drawled as she kissed Juliette on the cheek. “And where is Carina?”
“Celebrating – she and her friends won their coxed pairs race this morning,” Ingrid said with a smile.
“Well, I’ll call to congratulate her later,” Angel said as she saw Fi and Samantha arriving with their mothers.
“So what is this place,” Curt asked as he looked round with Jo.
“An attempt to create a French cabaret,” Jo said. “According to Olivia, they wanted the V&A.”
“Victoria and Albert Museum – covers Art and Design – you saw the adverts for the Pink Floyd retrospective…”
“Yeah – classic designs,” Marnie said as Grace came in.
“Why are we here again,” Tamsin said as she and Agnes entered the room.
“We were invited – and Olivia wants me to meet the designer,” Agnes said as she was greeted by Eve Stone.
“Ju can I ask
an opinion,” Missy Auerbach asked, “what do you think of GND?"
better off asking Janine, they make things aimed more at women like her?"
Missy turned and smiled, "Janine what do you make of GND?"
Girls Next Door?"
only know what I've seen and read since they haven't brought out a collection
in the States yet, but I have liked most of what I've seen, and I'd certainly
wear some of their stuff if I could afford it."
what you wanted to hear Missy?" Juliette sipped her coffee.
marketing director is an old friend, and he was asking about a certain model
maybe becoming their featured star in their advertising."
Juliette's eyebrow lifted..."Who?"
darling I can't even tell you."
"You can't even tell the boss Missy?" Janine looked shocked.
“Not on this one – trust me on this…”
hear the police were unpleasant last night Aggie?" Mandy said as she kissed
her on the cheek.
trifle, Mike tried to do it as nicely as possible, but given my history with
the dead man, I suppose he had to ask."
Sherry was none too pleased darling."
wasn't at breakfast...she made Mike phone again and apologise."
"So who do
they suspect?" asked Caroline.
said underworld figures," Aggie shook her head, "it seems Bennett was
truly off the rails."
drop the whole unpleasant topic?" Tamsin asked, "I met the man just
once and he truly was a bastard."
let's talk about getting Aggie some new designer outfits...far more interesting
as a topic," Olivia smiled. "I've had a word with Nick and he is
willing to see you straight after the presentation Aggie."
you consider how close this place is to my school, but what a contrast?"
"That is Soho for you darling," Mandy said quietly.
“So where’s Paula?”
"Paula has driven down to Kent to collect the four girls and their trunks darlings. She borrowed my Range Rover." Mandy sipped her wine.
“Dinner tonight with Liz’s grandmother,” Tamsin said, “could be interesting…”
it Jeannie," Juliette said as she spotted the disabled girl.
about, I could have wheeled here quicker than that taxi."
traffic bad again?" asked Caroline.
Barbara stood still and visibly tried to calm herself down, "I was so
afraid Jeannie would be late."
"Don't worry darling," Mandy passed them both glasses, "things like this never start on time."
10 am BST
Rutland Street, Kensington
“Do you mind if I ask you a question, Charles,” Sue said as she sat with her soon to be in-laws.
“Of course you can Susan,” Charles Gresham-Fox said, “what is it?”
“What are the things you have seen, that have happened in your life, that were true calamities?”
rather serious question Sue," Charles Gresham-Fox mulled his answer over,
"I suppose the greatest calamities in my life have been Margaret Thatcher,
the Big Bang, the Lloyd's crash, the rise of reality television, the last great
banking crisis, and now the referendum stupidity and the even remote chance
that Donald Trump will become president...God help us all."
understand all that?" Sue shook her head.
things were all pivotal in destroying the so-called 'certainties in life' that
I'd grown up believing in Susan. As
silly as this may seem, Margaret Thatcher made the Tory party into the most
hated group in the country – and we’ve never really recovered from that…"
I'm too dumb to get this..."
Susan," Bobby smiled, "just too young. Charles and I grew up in what
seems looking back to have been almost a different world."
are changing so fast Sue,” Charles said, “at times I just want to say stop, so
that I can get off."
"Am I one
of the changes that you hate Charles?" Sue looked in his eyes.
it or not Sue, no you aren't," Charles said as he put his arm round her,
"your background may be a trifle different than most of the girls I knew
growing up, but actually you are quite old fashioned in a lot of ways."
if that's a compliment or not?"
it is," Bobby smiled. "your concern for other people then yourself,
especially for family, is really just what my parents drummed into me."
"When you never had one of course you care." Sue stood up and went to the coffee maker. "Can I offer you fresh?"
“Thank you,” Bobby said. “Does the answer shock you Sue?”
way… You see, I'd always thought that
most people with a title were rich and did nothing," Sue said as she passed
round the fresh mugs.
a day when that might have been true," Charles laughed, "Uncle Rupert
probably just about remembers it, but no certainly in our family we use what we
have to make our way."
why Melford is open to the public and run strictly as a business," Bobby
took a sip. "Why Charles is a civil servant, Colin works for the party,
and Victoria was in the Royal Air Force."
short of money of course, though taxation over the years did see a lot having
to be sold. But we can't just afford to be idle."
that Charles, but what about people like the Ordford's and the Lardarn's, and
Ordford is again open to the public, and Will may suggest he plays at farming,
but actually his estate is managed incredibly well, and Mandy's modelling fees
are a great help as well I hear."
might be a duke,” Bobbie said, “but he's also been an astute manager of the
inheritance he received so unexpectedly, and as for Tamsin and her daughter,
their prosperity is largely derived still from the fortune that Kit's great
great great grandfather made in meat processing in Chicago, and which his son
kept, even when he moved the Mahan's back to Ireland."
"So are they wealthy still from luck or judgment?"
“Both really – but more good judgement. Like you have Sue.”
11 am BST
Café de Paris
Lily, Hey Mary, you two are even later then I was," Jeans smiled as they
damn traffic," Lily Cole moaned... "It's
impossible on Piccadilly."
haven't missed anything have we?" Mary Clarke asked as she looked round.
a lot of standing round, gossiping and drinking."
"Not you I
"No... Bloody waiters know just how old I am Lily. More’s the pity…”
"So how is your sister Mary, has she calmed down a bit yet?" Missy asked as she came over.
“A bit – Nancy came out to talk to her, and she’s lining up a book shoot for her,” Mary said. “Right now, Pops is making sure she has some time with the other girls, bring her back down to Earth as it were.”
“Abby – I never really thanked you in person for inviting us to the weekend,” Agnes said as she and Tamsin watched her walk over.
to see you both again," Abby kissed both sisters on the cheek.
Abigail," Agnes smiled, "so were you in this?"
was Mamma and also my Grand-Pere."
"Three generations," Tamsin smiled.
“Indeed – it will be interesting to see how it has come out…”
on to Venice next Mary?" Ingy asked, "will Richard be there?"
Mary blushed, "I just hope he won’t mind that I have Cadeau Aphrodite ads
he was looking at you in France? No chance."
London, Munich, London..."
Mary looked quizzically.
"We are trying to combine work with as much family time at home as possible, and the flight isn't that bad, about like you commuting to LA I guess."
“I guess – but I still don’t like it…”
"Alright ladies and gentlemen," Nick Wu said as he stood on the stage, "Could you take your seats please?”
As the groups
sat down, he continued “can I first present Duncan East who directed our little
epic." He paused for the applause, "as well as Steven Cardiff and Adrienne
Hulbert who I'm sure a lot of you know." Again he paused, "and
finally can I also welcome Carmen dell' Orefice without whose personal memories
this little film would not have been what it is."
"Have you seen it yet?" Ju whispered in Mandy's ear.
“Nope,” Mandy whispered back as they clapped.
“And so, come back now to the time post-war, and how we would have worked in France then…”
As the film came to an end, and the lights came back in, the room was filled with applause as Nick came back onto the stage.
“I take it you like it then? Thank you everyone for coming to the premiere – please stick around for a while.”
“Nick, if you have a moment,” Olivia said as she guided the designer over to where Agnes was sitting. “This is the woman I was telling you about, Agnes McAdam. Agnes, Nick Wu.”
“A pleasure,” Nick said as he took Agnes’ hand and kissed it. “Olivia says you need help in a hurry for a wedding outfit – the mother of the bride?”
“In essence, yes,” Agnes said.
“And who is designing the Bridal party?”
“Kylie Mitchell,” Olivia said, “but she has three weddings in the next month, as well as a new school to prepare for, so I told Agnes you would be able to help.”
“Of course – did you see anything in the film that may be suitable or interest you?”
1.30 pm BST
Maze, Grosvenor Square
“It sounds as if you had an interesting morning,” Peter Latimer said as he sat across from Agnes.
“It was – and thanks for meeting me on neutral ground, as promised,” Agnes said.
“Well, it makes a change from politicking – so, what can I do for you?”
"Okay Peter,” Agnes said, “given that in a past life you ran your family's banking operations out of Singapore, what can you tell me that I should be telling Torware?"
"It's difficult Agnes,” Peter said as he sipped his coffee, “and remember I've been away from banking a few years, but the best advice I'd give is research not only at a national level, research all the way down to the most local things."
causes me to ask why Peter?"
while a province, or city, might appear clean, you can have a local warlord, or
even a street gang, who are going to demand tribute before allowing you to open
in 'their' area.”
“I suspected that may be the case – what else?”
"Never grow complacent in your relationship with the locals, conditions on the ground in SE Asia can change very fast at times."
“So what are the major avoid at all costs places at the moment?”
“I’d tread very carefully in Laos and some of the surrounding areas – not enough proper control. Even in a relatively safe area like Cambodia these says, watch your step.”
“And Hong Kong?”
“Even more difficult since the Chinese took control – you’ll need local help there?”
“Hmm – if I mentioned the name Catherine Lu?”
Peter raised an eyebrow before he said “a useful contact to cultivate, just don’t ask too many questions about some of her other contacts. So, where are you going after this?”
“A few streets down – time to see some of my younger friends…”
3 pm BST
Hopkins Street, Soho
Agnes looked carefully round as she walked down the street, and then slipped down a side alley, opening out onto an old stable area. She smiled as she opened a large black door, and walked in to hear the sound of talking and discussion.
“Well, it sounds as if you’re working hard,” she said as she looked in to see a group of teenagers sitting with an older woman, “and what is the topic under discussion today?”
“Local History – specifically the churches,” the woman said as she stood up, her head covered in a black scarf.
“With you, Sister Evangeline, I expect no less. But don’t let me interrupt you – I came in to take care of a few things in the office.”
Agnes," one of the girls aged about 14 looked round and smiled, "how
Tiffany, and you?"
hard, but I'm trying."
still sleeping rough?"
has been letting me sleep on her floor, it's a lot better."
I'm actually earning a few quid legit by helpin' out in the kitchens at the
tell Sam thank you for taking you on."
and I'm doing what Kathy says and saving some of it with her so I'll have it
when I need it."
"Now that is really good news, come and give me a hug," Aggie smiled as the youngster embraced her.
“You’re the best Agnes,” Tiffany said with a smile.
“Right – carry on,” Agnes said as she made her way to the small office, where a dark haired younger woman was sitting.
“Afternoon Kathy – how are things,” she said as she took her coat off.
“No complaints Agnes – we got a delivery of coats, shoes and boots from the Oxford Street stores today, some of the others are putting them into store.”
“Tiffany talked to me – she seems to be doing well.”
“Yeah – she does seem to be pulling herself together,” Kathy said with a smile. “I heard about Bennett – any idea who it was?”
“You’re closer to the street than I am Kathy – although I had to give an alibi for yesterday.”
“Not surprised – listen, the fund balance is very healthy at the moment. Any thoughts on what to do?”
“What we do every night Kathy – help those like you who really need it.”
6 pm CET
you doing Cari dear?" Klaus asked as he came into the room, to see Carina
looking at her laptop.
the Informercial on the Nick Wu site,” Cari said as she looked up, “they've
posted it now."
just so original Pops...So different to how other collections are presented
do you look in it?"
damn good, even if I say so myself," Carina grinned.
mother and sister?"
great, everyone looks just right, even Will, and they had a hell of a job
shooting his bit."
he's as comfortable in front of the cameras as I am." Klaus smiled.
are the girls?"
gym...we might have raced and won this morning, but now the real tests start to
the other thing I was looking at, races from the last Olympics."
trying to familiarise myself with some of the landmarks, read what I can from
the water, listen to what the commentators were saying about the wind."
"That's all very professional...You know darling I'm very proud of you for taking up this challenge of competing with your friends."
“Thanks Pops – it is fun, but don’t tell them that…”
7.30 pm BST
Il Convivo, 143 Ebury Street, Belgravia
“Are you nervous Mum,” Liz said as she sat in the private dining room with Catriona. She was wearing a blue coat dress and black heels, while her mother was wearing a black trouser suit and a white blouse.
“Well, this could go a number of ways,” Catriona said with a smile. “But it does need to be done.”
“You know she’s… Ah, I see the Irish contingent is here?”
“Some of them, anyway,” Catriona said as she stood up to welcome the Gaunts. Paula was wearing a light grey summer dress, while Eve and Aileen were wearing cocktail dresses – Eve in an electric blue one, Aileen’s a deep crimson red. Both Tom and John were wearing dark suits, shirts and ties.
you look beautiful," the Duke said as he kissed her on the cheek.
Uncle Tom," she blushed.
grown again since I last saw you."
another inch and a half." Lizzie looked downwards, "these heels add a
little though as well."
whatever it is we can more or less talk eye to eye now."
son is a different thing," Tom smiled at John, "he really needs to stop
think Kits thinks he's perfect however tall he is."
"True," Tom laughed lightly.
“Oh yes it is,” Kit said as she came in with her mother and aunt. While she was wearing a white lace dress over a blue dress, Tamsin and Agnes were both wearing long sleeved blouses and tartan skirts. She walked up and kissed John as Agnes joined Catriona.
“You as well?”
“I have no idea what she is going to say to…”
“Grandmother,” Liz said as the door opened to allow Elizabeth, Countess of Sithwell, to come in as the others watched. The older woman smiled as Liz walked over and hugged her, saying “How are you my dear” as she looked round.
“I’m fine Grandmother – better than fine,” she said as Catriona came over. “Elizabeth – I need to say something before we begin. I am so so sorry that…”
“Catriona, I am just glad you feel we can talk, and you can talk to Liz now,” Elizabeth said. “I see we are amongst distinguished company – including the McAdam of McAdam. I am glad you have returned, Agnes.”
“Thank you, Countess – you know my sister Tamsin, and this is her daughter Christine.”
“The heir to
the estate – a real pleasure to meet you,” she said. "Paula you are looking well,"
Elizabeth then said as she greeted the Duchess.
are you Elizabeth," Paula kissed her on both cheeks.
you have started to model again?"
"Oh just tiny bits...really as much as anything to just see a lot of old friends who are still in the biz."
“And yet you were invited to the show in Sydney? I watched it.”
“You watched a fashion show, Elizabeth?”
“I do follow some things in fashion,” she said to Cat as they sat down, and she looked round. Elizabeth had never been a great beauty, but she had always attracted a certain kind of man who respected her intelligence, charm, and biting sense of humour. Dressed in a long sleeved grey dress, she assumed the place of honour at the head of the table.
had been twelve years older than her and of a slightly retiring disposition,
happiest with his books, and at home in his beloved border country. They were
not the kind of couple one might have assumed would fall in love, but they had,
to most of society's surprise, and had settled down to a happy contented life
was slightly heavier than she had been in her prime, and her once glorious
blonde hair she was allowing to go gray naturally, but her beautiful green eyes
and her rosy cheeks gave her what a lot of people still considered to be an
Archie her husband had died from a heart attack while out trying to photograph a magnificent stag that had been reportedly sighted on the estate, leaving her with a son at Sandhurst, a prospective daughter-in-law who even as a student some were predicting would one day become Lord Chief Justice, and some nasty death duties to pay. However, by instituting some economies and selling off a couple of paintings and some other bits of art, she had kept Melhorn more or less intact as Jamie's inheritance.
His death in
Kosovo, however, had been a major blow – one at the time she wasn't sure if she
would survive, nor the estate. His death on active duty, however, meant that
the estate passed to his unborn daughter without taking a major hit.
Her relationship with Catriona had been slightly strained for a number of years as each in their way mourned Jamie's death, and Lizzie had been the victim of much of that. But as they talked to each other while the orders were taken, she could see a rapprochement had started, and that made her happy as well.
“I wanted to thank you, Tamsin, for allowing Lizzie to stay with you for some of the summer, although I understand she will be coming to a wedding as well in Scotland?”
“Indeed,” Tamsin said, “some friends will be marrying in August, and I am pleased to say Ardray will be the base for the wedding.”
“So the owners will be letting you use the house?”
“Actually, without going into the full and gory details,” Tamsin said with a smile, “Agnes and I are two of the owners of the house and estate now.”
“Good,” Elizabeth said, “and when will you visit?”
“We fly up tomorrow with Kit and John,” Agnes said, “to allow them to see the estate for the first time.”
“Well, that should be an occasion – who is getting married?”
“Colin Gresham-Fox and his fiancée Susan?”
“Wasn’t young Gresham-Fox married before?”
“He was,” Paula said, “to the same woman.”
Nodding, Elizabeth said “well, if it is true love, it will always find a way.”
“Amen,” Agnes said quietly as the starters arrived.
"So how do
you find Benenden Aileen?" Elizabeth asked.
"A bit intimidating, just so many girls whose families are so RICH!"
“And we are not,” Tom said as he raised an eyebrow.
her head, "you should have seen the helicopters today parked out front as
girls were being collected."
guess...Arabs, Europeans, Americans..."
"And an awful lot of girls whose daddies have made a fortune in the financial industry," Aileen shook her head, "I get a bit envious at times."
“Trust me, Aileen,” Agnes said, “nothing is certain in life in that way. Family is the most important thing of all.”
“I agree – which is why it’s good Liz and I are at least talking again,” Catriona said, “I have a lot of apologizing and catching up to do.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear it,” Elizabeth said, “especially with everything that is happening. Agnes is right – family is important.”
“I know – now,” Cat said with a smile.
“So how is Melhorn,” Paula asked.
“Not too bad – this referendum has caused some local ill feeling, but it will pass.”
“Please – no politics tonight,” Tammy said with a smile.
“I meant in the sense of the local people wondering where I stood – with the Yeas or the Nays,” Elizabeth said. “Being all things to all men and that sort of rigmarole.”
“It had an effect in Dublin as well,” Paula said, “with people wondering where we as Gaunts sat?”
that old saying Elizabeth...In Ireland people think I'm English, and in England
people think I'm Irish," Tom shook his head, "I suppose like so many
Gaunt's of the past that I'm caught somehow between the two countries."
"I know that feeling Tom," Elizabeth smiled, "I was born just on the Northumberland side, and two of my godparents were Aunt Elizabeth, and Uncle Willie, both determinedly English. Whilst my other two were Uncle Alec and Aunt Margaret, both very proud Scots." Sipping her wine, she said “there are still some of 'our' people I hear call me "’The English Countess.’"
“But surely that sort of thing should pass into history,” Eve said, before she looked round the table and said “oh – yeah, forgot where I was for a moment.”
“It’s more than England-Scotland and Ireland-England though,” Paula said, “it’s still at the heart of it a class struggle, even in our so-called classless society.”
“Well, so long as you are a monarchy, no matter how well integrated, it will exist,” John said.
I've come to realise that the only real difference between the so-called
highest and the lowest, is that our ancestries are carefully recorded in
reference books." Agnes smiled.
to add though that, because we know just where we came from, that it makes us
as a class the natural guardians of our heritage," Elizabeth replied,
"and that as long as there is a fascination both with the upper classes
and with the history we guard and represent, that we will continue to be looked
at as being different."
"My housemaster he says that the old aristocracy may no longer rule and own the land, but that we still guard and protect it. just as you said," John spoke quietly.
point," Tom nodded, "and you dear Aggie are living proof - because
why else would you always carry around that piece of black cloth, and not have
disposed of Ardray Castle."
"Alright you've got me on that," Agnes laughed, "I do suppose our sense of history does make us a bit different."
“Still, I am pleased that you are returning home tomorrow,” Paula said. “It’s long past time.”
“I know,” Aggie said, “but bear in mind it’s only been a few weeks since I decided I was a person again.”
“I do think the real crime was the way you were treated,” Elizabeth said, “and I for one wish we had done more.”
“The past is past,” Cat said, “let’s look forward.”
“So, apart from the wedding, what else are you planning to do for the summer Eve?”
“Well, we have two weddings to attend,” Eve said, “the one in Scotland, and the wedding in Naples.”
“Charlotte Gordon and Piet van der Byl,” Kit said. “Charlotte’s mother is the Marchesa di Cambrello.”
“Ah – I see now,” Elizabeth said. “I read her story – a true tragedy in many ways.”
“There’s been a lot of that recently,” Eve said, “but mainly chilling out and if possible, staying out of the public eye.”
“So you have no wish to be on television?”
“What, like Made in Chelsea,” Liz said. “Surely you would not wish me to appear on that, Grandmother?”
“Of course not – and you have more sense than that,” Elizabeth said.
think though that Made in Chelsea as a series is very embarrassing," Eve
sipped her drink, "far too many girls either want to grow up to be like
that, even at Benenden."
equally determined not to be," Kits finished.
generation was framed by Diana and that silly Sloane Ranger book,"
Catriona looked thoughtful. "I think people thought I was too
'intellectual' to be cool."
I sort of come from in between," Agnes spoke, "the John Major years
when having a title might still mean something in certain social quarters, but
which you were slightly embarrassed to use elsewhere."
had a cachet in modelling," Paula added, "which you of course turned
my title wasn't really of any use in Academia."
find a use for your other title though Agnes dear," Elizabeth said with a
"True," Aggie laughed. “But as we said earlier, that is the past.”
“So are you meeting people outside of school as well?”
steadily getting to know some American girls," Aileen spoke. "I'm
friends with Katy Carter for example."
model?" Elizabeth lifted an eyebrow.
got to know her and Orion O'Ryan when they were working at Athlone a while
and I know Jo Smith, she also did a fashion shoot in Ireland, and stayed with
us," Eve said proudly.
are hoping to meet a few others over the summer." Christine added.
all members of the so-called Saints and Sinners group Elizabeth," Paula
smiled, "I suppose because we have so many friends in the group we as a
family have honorary membership."
why we were all invited to Abigail de Ros's birthday party." John spoke.
"And you got to be the star rugby player," Kit smiled at her man.
“All of you were there?”
“Well, for various different reasons,” Tamsin said as she looked at Agnes.
“At any rate,” Elizabeth said, “I hope after the wedding, you will come and visit me for a few days?”
“We’d love to,” Catriona said with a smile, “I have cleared that fortnight in my calendar.”
9 pm CET
“We’re back,” Juliette said as she entered the drawing room.
darling?" Klaus said a she stood and kissed his wife.
a bit hungry too, what was offered on the flight back was horrid."
order both you and Ingrid late dinners."
"Thank you my love," Juliette said as she slipped into an armchair.
"So what was the worst thing?"
many years have you been round the fashion industry?"
Klaus laughed, "the meet and greet with the press."
it in one."
are you still doing up darling," Juliette said as she scooped up Judith.
peepee on the potty, and Mummy watched I did it wite."
as well," Annie smiled, "I promised her she could come down and say
hello if she did."
"Who is a clever girl then?" Juliette laughed softly.