War Zones – Part 3
“Right,” Adam said as he and Jan sat down, looking at Ed Mitchell, “we have been trying to find you for some time, Mr. Mitchell. You’ve proven rather elusive – moving round a lot.”
“Almost as if,” Jan said as she leaned forward, “you did not want anyone to find you. Now why is that?”
“Look,” Ed said quietly, “I know this looks bad, especially after what happened yesterday…”
“And how do you know what happened yesterday?”
“I watch television, you know – but I’ve been trying to keep on the move, out of eyesight in case…”
“In case what, Ed?”
“In case they tried to kill me.”
“Look,” Ed said as he wrung his hands, “after Anna found out about what I had been doing, and kicked me out, my business went belly up quickly, so I got a job with a brokerage firm. A month or so back, I discovered that some of the money they were using to finance projects – well, it wasn’t exactly kosher, if you catch my drift.”
“Not really,” Adam said with a sigh, “so what did you do, Ed?”
“I panicked – I ran, and took a copy of the records with me. I thought if they realized I had that they would leave me alone, but…”
“Never works that way,” Adam said quietly. “Where were you last Saturday and Sunday Ed?”
“I was out west – I can give you the hotels, dates, everything… Why?”
“You do know that Kerry Hull was killed in San Antonio last Sunday, Ed?”
“I heard – that’s why I had to come back, to warn Anna. I realized they may be trying to flush me out – and the last thing I wanted was for Anna to be hurt any more by me. I only got into the city yesterday – and then heard about the shooting incident.”
“So why did you come here tonight,” Jan asked.
“I followed her and Mary Thomas – I wanted to get to her, to warn her, but you stopped me. Is she…”
“She’s fine, we’ve had security and FBI staff on her since the incident,” Adam said. “Ed, we need to know who is behind this?”
“I can’t… I just can’t…”
There was a knock on the door as a police officer came in.
“Ed, we need to keep you in custody until we can talk to you more fully. This officer will escort you to the station – we’ll talk again in the morning, once we have Anna safely home.”
“Can I see her?”
“No – not until we’re satisfied we’ve got to the bottom of this,” Adam said as he stood up. “You’re not under arrest, but you need to be where we can find you.”
Nodding, Ed left the room as Tom came in.
“He claims his former employers are after him, and he has information that lands them in trouble.”
“Hmm – let him sleep on it. Come and join the party for now.”
“Do you believe him,” Jan asked as they walked out.
“No - I want to talk to my former buddy first.”
“Congratulations Judy!” Juliette said as she hugged her daughters’ friend.
“You were magnificent.” Madame said as she kissed her on the cheek.
“Don’t inflate her ego anymore, Shirley,” Rachel McNally laughed. “The music critic from the New York Times just interviewed her and she was almost in raptures.”
“I’m alright Mom.” Judy grinned, “Just enjoying the attention.”
“Well the attention was well deserved.” John gave her a peck on the cheek. “Your featured piece was wonderful, and I have to say whoever did the arrangement for the finale made full use of your talents as well.”
“It was one of the professors from the music department, and I’m just glad everyone enjoyed it.”
“Well as someone who has played Messiah, sung it, and watched it several times, can I say I was ultra-impressed Judy.” Harriet said as she praised the young woman.
“Well Thank You.” Judy smiled - the biggest smile she could make.
“Will you sign my programme please?” Erica asked shyly.
“If you want me to.” Judy took the pen.
“And mine as well please Judy?” Jeannie asked.
As she signed their programs, some of the other attendees came over and talked to her, praising her and asking for signatures.
“It’s lovely seeing Judes the centre of attention.” Carina whispered in David’s ear.
“Yes,” David said as she looked proudly at his girlfriend. “She deserves it tonight.”
“Is this what it’s like for you when you meet fans, Abby?”
“Oh keep me out of this,” Abby said as she stood with Jo, Jack and Curt, “I want the peace and quiet tonight.
“Hear hear,” Jo said, “you’re the star tonight.”
“Well young lady I am so happy all of those hours of practice in my church paid off.” Alex said as he hugged Judy.
“And I am too Father,” Judy said as she hugged him back. “I was so nervous at first, but then I remembered what you said about imagining it was just me, you, and David in the church I was playing to…that helped.”
“Well I’ve booked a dining room at L’Orcio,” George said as he looked round, “so if we round up as many Saints and Sinners as we can find, we can all go and relax.”
“I think Judy has earned a meal and a drink.” David spoke, “she hasn’t eaten since breakfast she was so nervous.”
“Okay, then it is time we went and fed the star.” Ingrid called out.
“Agreed!” Rachel smiled proudly at her daughter.
“Judy before I go. I have to pass on my congratulations.” Wilhelmina Tennant said as she walked over. “You were magnificent.”
“Thank You Miss Tenn…I mean Wilhelmina, Coming from you that means more then anything.”
“Wilhelmina we are going to eat, would you like to join us?”
“Sadly I can’t Rachel. I’m here with friends, and they need get back to town.”
“Oh that’s a pity, but we understand. Safe trip home.”
“Thanks – and well done again,” Wilhelmina said as she left with her friends.
“Did Miss Tennant actually just praise me?” Judy shook her head.
“Wilhelmina may be sparing in her praise, but it means that when given it means all the more.” Grace noted.
“I know.” Judy sat down for a moment and looked round. “She accepted me as head girl, but I don’t think I was her favourite head girl ever. That is the nicest thing she ever said to me.”
“Well for me, tonight was the perfect end to a wonderful day.” Grant spoke, “We got the invite earlier for Saintz and Sinnerz to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.”
“Oh congratulations Grant!” Alex said as he hugged him, “I know that means an awful lot in the racing world.”
“It does. I rang Guy and I could hear him cracking a bottle of champagne open while we spoke.”
“That sounds like Papa.” Diana laughed merrily. “I expect he and Valeria will come over for the meet now.”
“So do we need to make group reservations to go watch the big race?” asked Rachel.
“Oh I think it’s a clique gathering for sure.” Juliette replied.
Denice suddenly looked down, as she whispered “I am not sure Erica and I can…”
“It will be Roy’s and mine honour if you come as our guests Erica.” Tonia smiled.
“Well,” Denice said with a smile, “of course we will come.”
“Mary! Anna! We are going to eat? Are you coming?” Rachel shouted.
“If we are welcome?”
“Of course you’re welcome,” Alex said with a smile.
“Was that an invitation to eat,” Adam said as he and Tom came in.
“Sure was,” Juliette said, “and where did you disappear to?”
“Tell you when we get there – Caroline?”
“Why not – the perfect end to an interesting day,” Caroline said as she looked at the others.
Sunday 20th September
10 am Local Time
“Welcome home, little Teacher,” Leader said as Marigold joined her, “what news?”
“Not good – I am afraid the overmasters found three of the older women trying to sabotage equipment. I watched as they punished them.”
“Execution,” Green said, “I watched as well, but as the sword was raised they called out ‘For The Heart and The Strength’ in Marigold’s language.”
“The people gathered round nodded and watched as their heads were separated from their bodies. Their names will be remembered.”
Leader stood for a moment with her head bowed, before she said “they will be remembered and honoured when this is done. And the delays?”
“Continue – if anything, with renewed vigour, but we need to move soon – the land is being cleared, and more slaves are arriving every day.”
“Marigold,” Charlotte said as she came in. “I heard you had arrived, what happened?”
“I will brief all later,” Leader said as a Sister came in.
“Leader, White has returned – and they have a prisoner. They captured the leader of a platoon they came across.”
“The rest of them?”
“Dealt with – where shall we put him?”
Leader came out to find White with two of her stick, and between them a Chinese army officer, blindfolded and his hands secured behind his back.
“Take him over there and secure him,” Leader said as Petra came over.
“Someone for me to talk to?”
“Indeed – but I wish to convene the leaders first. When does Rassie arrive with the next set of volunteers?”
Looking at her watch, Charlotte said “Thirty minutes.”
“We meet in an hour – invite him to join us. It is time to lay plans to end this – once and for all.”
7 pm Local Time
“So it wasn’t this operation you have heard about, Natalya?”
“It would appear not,” Natalya said as she sat in the restaurant with Helen and Marina, “it looks like a US based issue at the moment. With that in mind, Catherine has requested you return tomorrow, with our thanks for all you have done here.”
“So when do you make the move against the Death Dragons?”
“Yoshimi is isolated, alone – despite his threat to take out Tanaka, it seems to have come to nothing. So it becomes a question of not when, but who.”
“With the supply line cut to Mogola now, and the other end tidied up by the LA office, he’s ready to fall. I think our work here is very nearly…”
Natalya’s cell phone rang, and as she answered it she said “Niki, what’s…”
“You’re kidding me – I’ll be right there.”
“What’s happened,” Marina said as she wiped her chin.
“Yoshimi has flipped – he’s snatched Tamiko Tanaka, and her father has put a bounty on his head, dead or dead. We have one advantage – we know where he is.”
The two women looked at each other, before Helen said “I suspect we have one last task to perform.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Did you read the papers Mom?” Carina asked as she came into the kitchen following Judith. The little girl was wearing a blue top and jeans, while Carina was in her joggers and Yale hoodie.
“I did, and the reviews are excellent.” Juliette said as she looked up from her coffee. “It would appear that it went down exceptionally well.”
“The best was in the Yale student newspaper online.” Ingrid said as she swung round on her stool. “The writer obviously knows Judy, and heaped the praise on.”
“Oh,” Carina said as Judith toddled round, “I hope it was for everyone involved, not just Judy?”
“Oh no, the writer picked out several performers to highlight.”
“As was only fit and proper Ingrid my love.” Klaus walked in.
“Grappy!” Judith extended her arms to be picked up, and smiled as Klaus reached down and lifted her up.
“And how are you my little one?” He tickled her chin as he looked at her.
“Good.” The toddler smiled.
“Well, you are going to behave for your mother aren’t you?”
Judith nodded as Klaus put her down, and Carina handed her juice cup, watching as she sat on her chair.
“So are the two of you set for Paris?” Cari asked her parents.
“We are, if you mean in the sense of Janine and I? Your father on the other hand…”
“I can pack in thirty minutes,” Klaus said with a smile, “I’m not like you fussing over every little detail.”
“I don’t fuss.”
“Oh my love you do,” Klaus giggled.
“Listen to them,” Ingrid whispered to Carina, “anyone would think they are a married couple.”
“I know,” Cari laughed quietly.
“Changing the subject…” Juliette said as she glared at Klaus for a second, “Will you girls be okay while we are away?”
“Of course we will.” Ingrid smiled.
“Mom,” Carina said as she hugged Juliette, “we aren’t children.”
“Well I’ll phone each day.”
“Just listen to Jeanne while you are there, please?”
“Carina dear I can’t understand why Jeanne has appointed herself as my bodyguard.”
“Well she does have to be in Paris, and I’m happier knowing she is handling security for us.” Klaus said as she drained his coffee cup.
“Mom, please, just accept her offer and understand that her presence at least reassures Ingrid and me.”
“She’s right Juliette,” Ingy nodded her approval. “I understand Jan and Caroline still have people watching Mary and Anne as well, so it’s not as if you are the only one.”
“All right, all right – I just hope she enjoys fashion meetings,” Juliette said as the telephone rang.
“It’s Julian,” Carina said after she answered it, “Jeanne is coming up with her case.”
Juliette went over to the door and opened it, as Jeanne appeared with her case.
“Good morning,” she said as she put it down, “the car will be here in ninety minutes.”
“Well then, I had better go and pack my things,” Klaus said as he put his mug down and walked out, Juliette shaking her head as she did so.
“Did I miss something?”
“How long did it take you to pack, Jeanne?”
“Seriously? Four hours – picking the right dresses, the appropriate shoes…”
“Point, I think,” Carina said with a smile as Judith giggled.
Jack Linklater’s Studio
“Wow,” Katy said as she walked into the studio, “does it really take this many people to take some photos?”
“Yes it does,” Pepsi said, “especially when it’s Jeannie we are talking about. Come on – she said it was through the glass doors on the other side.”
As they walked along the side of the room, Jack glanced up and smiled at them before he said “Stefan, angel, how many times – facing up not down?”
“Hey Peps, Hey Katy.” Jeannie called out as her friends came into the dressing room.
“Are you sure we are allowed in here?” Katy said as she looked round nervously. She was wearing a pair of jeans and black Ugg boots with a sweatshirt, while Pepsi was in jeans and a short sleeved blouse under her jacket.
“Hey you are my guests.” Jeannie laughed as she pulled the dressing gown she had on tightly round her. “I’m allowed to have friends come see me at work.”
“I can’t believe you are working this morning.” Pepsi shook her head. “I’m still wiped out from last night.”
“Oh I’m feeling drained as well,” Jeannie said as she stretched her arms up, “but models can’t show it, when the photographer calls for action you have to be perfect.”
“That must be hard.” Katy muttered as she looked round taking everything in.
“There’s a secret to it,” Jeannie paused, “Wendy can I have three more cups of the Turkish coffee please?” she called to one of the assistants.
“Coming right up Miss Brewster.”
“This coffee is so strong it’s guaranteed to pep anybody up.”
“Okay.” Katy laughed. “So what are you doing right now Jeannie?”
“What I do most of the time, sitting round waiting and reading, which at the moment means Chaucer,” she nodded to indicate the book. “When they get the lights right, and are happy, then my hair comes out of these curlers, they put the dress on me and I get to do my thing…but until then it’s just sitting here like I said.”
“Sounds boring.” Katy looked a little disbelieving at what she was hearing.
“Yeah it can be, but…”
“The coffees Miss Brewster.”
“Thanks Wendy,” Jeannie said as the assistant put the three cups down, “it’s why I always ask them to have a pot of this close by to help keep me awake.”
“She doesn’t do drugs Katy, just coffee.” Pepsi smiled.
“So what are you wearing for the shoot?”
“Leather…Jackets, skirts, boots, you name it then I’m probably wearing it today.”
“Are you ready to go Jeans?” Pippa Ashley called out, as she and Barbara came in from the studio.
“Give me five please…Wendy I need help.”
“Coming,” Wendy rushed over with the hairdresser and the other assistants.
“We’re going with the leather pinafore dress first,” Pippa said as she stood and watched.
“Girls come and sit out front with us.” Barbara beckoned.
“My daughter Poppy is here as well.” Pippa smiled.
“Oh joy,” Pepsi muttered under her breath as they went out. Poppy was sitting in one of the chairs, wearing black leggings and a t-shirt as she worked on an assignment.
“Hey,” Katy said as she sat down, “I’m Katy.”
“Hello,” Pippa said as she looked round, and then saw Pepsi sitting with her.
Katy looked between the two of them, and made a small O with her lips as Jeannie was wheeled out, wearing a knee length leather dress with capped sleeves and short suede boots. The assistants lifted her up onto the stool at the bar set, as Jack said “so, little baby, are you ready to make magic?”
“As always, Jack – what shall I do?”
“What you always do, darling,” Jack said as Jeannie leaned back and posed, Jack starting to get to work.
“Wow,” Katy said as she watched, “she really is good at this, isn’t she?”
“Yeah I guess she is,” Poppy said, “that might explain…”
Poppy looked round at Pepsi as she looked back.
“This is not the time, this is not the place. Jeannie is working, and when she works, nothing else matters. Or do you want your mom and hers angry with you?”
Poppy looked over at Pippa and Barbara, and shook her head.
“Good – so for today, we agree to disagree, and just enjoy the day, sound good to you?”
“As you wish,” Poppy said as she went back to her reading.
“Wow – how does she do that?”
Pepsi and Pippa looked over as Jeannie pushed herself forward and put one foot on the floor, smiling as Jack snapped the pictures, and then said “got it, darling – get into the next outfit please?”
“Little help here please,” Jeannie said as the assistants lifted her into her chair, and then followed her into the dressing room.
NYPD Precinct Office, Midtown North
“Ball, Carter,” Sergeant Rizzo said as Adam and Janice came into the precinct house, “what brings you down here?”
“We’ve come to have a little chat with your guest – Richard Cabe.”
“Oh yeah – the shooter from Friday. I hear you got the collar, Adam?”
“Asked for it – I served with him in the Gulf. I felt he deserved that much.”
“Have you had the ballistics report back,” Jan said.
“Yeah – just got it,” Rizzo said as he handed the report over, Jan glancing through it and saying “well I’ll be damned.”
She handed it to Adam, who read it, and then said “We need to talk with him – is he lawyered up yet?”
“Waiting for him to come in – want a coffee until he’s ready?”
“So long as it’s drinkable,” Jan said with a smile.
“Well, well – come to gloat Benny?”
“Nope,” Adam said as he sat down with Jan, “come to talk. I didn’t get any pleasure out of it, Dick – I was doing my job.”
“Yeah – I know. You both agents?”
“That’s right,” Jan said as she looked at her lawyer – “He was shown our identification before he went for the gun.”
Cabe looked at his lawyer, who nodded as Adam rubbed his eyes.
“All right – here’s the situation,” he said, “the rifle we found at your apartment has been confirmed not only as the weapon used to shoot at the crowd off Times Square on Friday lunchtime, but it was also the weapon used to shoot and kill Kerry Hull in San Antonio last Sunday. So we have some questions for you – and you need to know, Cabe old buddy, that the SAPD are looking to have you shipped down to their tender care.”
“And now for the bad news,” Jan said, “the murder of Kerry Hull is being treated as a contract hit, which makes it a capital murder. And Texas has the death penalty for that.”
Cabe looked over at his attorney, who whispered into his ear. “Who says I was in San Antonio last weekend?”
“The flight manifests for your flight from New York to San Antonio… The motel you stayed in… We’re building the case, Cabe,” Adam said, “and right now, I have to tell you that the best thing you can do is cooperate. Then we can put in a good word.”
“Benny, look – for old time’s sake…”
“Cabe,” Adam said quietly as he put a picture in front of him, “have you seen this man before?”
Jan watched as the man looked down, and said “yeah – he’s the guy who hired me to do the thing last Friday. He said he wanted to give some women who had stitched him up the fright of their lives.”
Jan and Adam looked at each other, before Jan said “and the San Antonio job?”
“No – that was different. He had nothing to do with it.”
“All right Cabe – let’s talk about San Antonio.”
4 pm Local Time
As Shelby and Charlotte walked across the compound, they saw the latest arrival appear with Liz from one of the tents.
“This man thinks he is a tough bastard.” Petra grimaced as she came out of the tent the prisoner was being held in.
“Oh?” Charlotte asked.
“Yes but he’s careless,” Liz looked at her notes, “in trying to not say anything he is in fact betraying a lot.”
“Alright,” Shelby said, “I’ll bite, how can he be telling you things if he’s not saying anything?”
“He thinks he is being inscrutable Shelby, but he’s twitching, and giving body signals that tell us a huge amount.”
“Like what Liz?”
“That they are definitely getting jumpy going out on patrol. Our little demonstrations of ‘African Savagery’ have ‘him’ at least spooked, and I suggest most of the other soldiers.”
“He certainly didn’t like the idea of us handing him over to the local tribes when I put it to him.” Petra spoke.
“Alright so we are winning the psychological campaign?”
“Seems like it Charlotte.”
“What did you find out about the airstrip?”
“That I think is above his pay grade,” Liz looked up again, “but again I think that our blockade on the road is having an effect on morale, I don’t think they like being under siege in the African heartland.”
“I think they are literally praying for the strip to get operational so they at least feel they have a safe route to the outside world.” Petra smiled as Rassie approached.
“I heard a bit of that,” the South African pilot sipped some water. “We need really to start harrying the construction somehow.”
“Well short of the SAAF bombing the hell out of it, do you have any ideas Rassie?” Charlotte asked.
“One or two come to mind – the people inside that compound are doing a good job, but word is they are paying the price, right?”
Leader slowly nodded as he stroked his chin.
“Right – then we need to shut down their air support. I think it’s time you tried the Dead Man ploy, Liz.”
“Do you think that will work here?”
“I think so – but we’re going to need a distraction in the compound to do that.”
“Well,” Charlotte said, “I’m sure a distraction is possible – but what is the Dead Man ploy?”
“We need a little tech help Little Mother,” Liz said with a grin, “come with me and I’ll explain.”
Jack Linklater’s Studio
“All right, Jeannie my angel, you can take a lunch break now.”
“Thanks Jack,” Jeannie said as she relaxed and let the assistants take the leather jacket and bag from her, while Barbara handed her a bottle of water.
“Come on,” Pepsi said to Katy, “there’s a buffet over there.”
“I can’t believe that’s the same Jeannie I see at school every day…”
“Oh it is Poppy,” Barbara laughed, “but where her modeling is concerned she’s a total professional.”
“I heard Jack say that is why he loves working with her…no nonsense.”
“That’s true, she takes this very seriously.”
“Do you watch many shoots Poppy?” Katy asked nicely.
“Not many…but after what happened, Mom doesn’t want to leave me at home in the apartment alone.”
“That’s understandable.” Barbara said as she put an arm round Poppy. “Just don’t let it ruin your life though.”
“I’m trying not to.”
“Do you want to work in fashion one day Poppy?” Katy asked as she picked up a sandwich.
“No…” Poppy looked round and said “if I’m honest, I really want to be a doctor.”
“Oh,” Katy said, “you mean like Erica and Anna.”
“Yes.” Poppy blushed, “But keep that a secret please, it’s uncool in my group to be geeky.”
“I’ll keep the secret.” Pepsi spoke for the first time, as she thought to herself how much nicer this Poppy was then the one she usually saw.
“Thanks – and look, I’m sorry about last night. It was a reflex action, but it was out of order.”
“Not me you really need to apologise to,” Pepsi said as Pippa came over. “But I’ll accept on her behalf.”
“Fair enough,” Poppy whispered as Pippa said “Come with me a moment please Poppy – I want you to meet Jack properly.”
“She seems a nice enough girl,” Katy whispered to Pepsi.
“Yeah – she does…here,” Pepsi whispered back as she shook her head.
FBI Field Office, New York
“Sorry for the delay, Mister Mitchell,” Tom said as he came into the interview room, “but we needed to check a few things first.”
“What’s happened to Anne?”
“She’s safe at home, under discrete guard,” Jan said quietly as she looked at the file. “Ed, have you been in touch with Kerry Hull before her death?”
“Only by e-mail, I tried to get her to talk to me, with little success.”
“Well, you’re not going to succeed now, regretfully.”
“I realize that now,” Ed said as his face paled.
“We found quite a few e-mails on her laptop,” Tom said as he stood up. “You might like to know we arrested the man who killed her – ex-marine sniper called Richard Cabe. If it is any comfort, she felt nothing.”
“So why am I still here,” Ed said as he looked at the two agents.
“Well, let’s table that for the moment,” Jan said, “and let’s talk about last night. You told Adam and Alex you were there because you thought someone was going to harm Anna. What made you believe that?”
“I told him last night.”
“Indulge us,” Tom said as he sat back.
“I was laying low with the information I had found out, and arrived in New York to find out Anna had been shot at. So I followed her to the concert, to make sure it didn’t happened again.”
“Well,” Jan said, “it did happen again. Someone tried to stab her – but one of Caroline Jameson’s crew stopped them. That’s not the most interesting thing though.”
Tom put a picture in front of Ed.
“Do you know this man, Mister Mitchell?”
Ed looked at the picture, and then at both of them.
“No – why?”
“Well,” Jan said, “this is Richard Cabe, who is the man who shot Kerry Hull. He’s talking to Adam with his attorney and the NYPD now. But he told us something interesting.”
“And that is?”
“That you hired him to scare Anna on Friday – which would explain why he missed when he killed Kerry Hull from a distance in a moving car.”
“Ed,” Jan said as she stood up, “this is the point where you call your attorney. You’re going to need him.”
10 pm Local Time
“Little Mother, this is Uncle. Are you receiving me?”
“Loud and clear,” Charlotte said as she sat in the radio room. “Did you read my questions Uncle John?”
“I did Charlotte,” John Vosloo said, “and I wish I could be of more help, but using our Air Force in Mogola is beyond possibility, and besides bomb craters can be repaired quite quickly and strips brought back into use.”
“That was what I thought,” Charlotte sighed. “So what about my other idea of South Africa raising its concerns up here diplomatically?”
“The president is concerned about ruining this huge Chinese investment deal…”
“But these are rogue elements within…”
“It would still involve the Chinese government losing face Charlotte.”
“I know its crap, you know its crap, but you try convincing the two governments about that.”
“So do you have any suggestions Uncle John?”
“Get Piet and more journalists in there to see…make the story very real.”
“Or in other words a television crew?”
“Yes and preferably a US one, if anything is going to get done it will have to be via pressure at the UN, and from Europe.”
“Alright I will have to consult with others then, Okay Uncle John, leave this with me for a few hours.”
“Will do Charlotte.”
“Liz passes along her best wishes.”
“How is she doing?”
“Excellently, she can seemingly read minds almost.”
“Well she always told me that our body language betrays us.”
“Well I am more than glad we have her and Petra here.”
“I heard Petra Nguyen had made her way to you. Good choice. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Sleep well, Uncle.”
“You too, Little Mother.”
Charlotte took off her headset and stretched, yawning.
“Bed, Charlotte – doctor’s orders,” Lucia said as she looked in.
Monday 21st September
9 am Local Time
The morning sun was shining down on the traffic heading into the city, and one vehicle in particular.
“Well at least I get to squire three beautiful women around one of my favourite cities,” Klaus said as he looked out of the limousine window.
“Yes it is three Janine.” Klaus smiled at the assistant, “You look beautiful as well.”
“I don’t know…”
“Janine what have I said about putting yourself down?” Juliette smiled as well. The young blonde was wearing a pale grey jacket and trousers with a white blouse, while both Juliette and Jeanne were wearing short sleeved dresses.
“Right, we are all booked in at the Georges V.” Jeanne spoke. “They have our rooms ready for us when we arrive.”
“Oh you aren’t going to stay in your own apartment Jeanne?”
“I thought about it Juliette, but I decided I want to be close by in case of any trouble.”
“Thank you.” Klaus said as he nodded approvingly.
“So have you and Jeanne been over the show schedule Janine?”
“We have Juliette,” her assistant said, “both those that you are watching, and those you are walking.”
“I must say I find it a novel idea that you are here both as model…and as a critic Ju.”
“Oh it’s not too hard to do.” Juliette looked out at the Stade de France as they passed. “And most of the designers know that as model or writer I always give an honest opinion Janine.”
“Oh gay, gay, Paris, where only the river is Seine.” Klaus laughed to himself. “I look round, even out here in the suburbs and I start to feel especially good about life.”
“Well this year at least I know a little French, so at least I don’t have to ask Juliette to translate everything.” Janine took her turn to smile.
“Which is a blessing in disguise – so a shower, some late breakfast, and then to work.”
“So how did your day go yesterday,” Doc said as she and Pepsi walked into the school.
“It went – it was a strange day. Katy enjoyed it, and Poppy Ashley was there with her mother.”
“Oh joy,” Anna said as she rolled her eyes, “and that made it a strange day?”
“Well,” Pepsi said, “the strange thing was that she was anything but a brat.”
“Who? Katy?” asked Doc.
“No Poppy,” Pepsi said, “she was actually very nice. I’m starting to think the bitch is a front she hides behind.”
“Yeah – and believe me, I was surprised as well.”
“Well she does a pretty good job of hiding then. I think she’s a snot.”
“I think we need to give her a second chance,” Pepsi said as they went in, “so, anyway, I invited her to my birthday party…”
“You did what?” Anna groaned, “Isn’t it bad enough seeing her at school?”
“I’m going to give her a second chance.”
“Well just don’t expect the rest of us to be as nice. Come on – Chaucer awaits us.”
“What’s up,” Jeannie said as she caught up with them, while Poppy walked by with her group.
“Pepsi losing her mind,” Doc said quietly.
“Oh – situation normal then.”
2 pm Local Time
George V Hotel,
21 Avenue George V, Paris
“That’s better,” Jeanne said as she wiped her chin. “I always feel better after eating in Paris.”
“Indeed,” Juliette said, “and what better way than in La Galerie?”
“Precisely,” Jeanne said as she stood up, “so, when is your first meeting?”
“Three – so we had best be on our way,” Janine said as the three women walked to the hotel lobby – only to see three familiar faces walking back in.
“Nessa,” Juliette said as she kissed Sandy’s mother on both cheeks, “you didn’t say you were flying over.”
“Well it was a spur of the moment thing Ju.” Nessa looked at the other two women. “Paulie, Mo and I decided we’d come and see some of the French shows.”
“Well good for you guys. We must meet up for dinner at some point.”
“That would be good,” Paulie said. “We ran into Valeria a few minutes ago, she and Guy were heading for his apartment.”
“Jeanne said they’d looked in on her earlier. How were they?”
“Well both of them seemed in fine spirits, Valeria was saying that it looks like being an excellent vintage. I told her to put me down for a few cases.”
“I suppose I ought to do the same.”
“Yes before she raises the price.” Nessa laughed lightly.
“And I bet Guy talked of nothing but his horses?”
“Yes, but you know Guy - even when he’s talking about a subject you aren’t really interested in, he is charm personified.”
“True, very true.”
“So what is Klaus going to do while you walk shows and write?”
“He was saying something about spending some time at the Bibliothèque Nationale working on some research about his family.”
“Oh, no business meetings?”
“Oh he has few of those,” Juliette said to Paulie, “but it’s this research has him interested, and he won’t tell me what it’s all about.”
“It’s just so annoying when men do that.”
“Diana is coming here to see about ball arrangements for Abigail,” Jeanne said, “she and Mandy are flying in Wednesday to finalise things.”
“Well I hope they just both have as enjoyable season as your Carina seemed to.”
“I think they will,” Juliette said as Jeanne looked at her watch.
“Ju, we need to…”
“I know, I know – we’ll see you around girls,” Juliette said as they walked out of the hotel, and got into a waiting cab.
10 pm Local Time
Ota District, Tokyo
Near Haneda Airport
Tamiko Tanaka glared at Yashimi as he paced up and down, nervously looking to the laptop screen as it glowed in the darkened room. The cuffs holding her wrists together behind the chair were fed through the lattice, while her ankles were secured with leather cuffs to the front legs. A band of silver tape was wrapped tightly round her head, as she followed Yashimi’s frantic pacing round the floor.
“He will show me respect,” he whispered, “he has to show me respect, as a family head. He will listen to me, if only to have his beloved daughter returned to him.”
Tamiko just followed him with her eyes, the anger in her fuelling her thoughts of what she would do to him if she was freed. He had brought her here, with what she figured were the last of his men. She had counted thirty – he had blindfolded her, or disguised where she was. The sounds of aircraft landing and taking off had told her that much.
“I would have liked to see them again, one last time – say goodbye to them,” he said as he looked at Tamiko, “but even that has been denied me, they have been taken who knows where.”
She allowed herself a smile at that – the associates of Madame had got them to safety, and they had been told the truth about him.
“All I want, all I desire, is the chance to present my case to the Oyabuns, to ask their help to deal with the fucking Chinese. Then I can rebuild, reform, and reestablish…”
The sound of shouts came from outside the door, Tamiko watching as Yashimi took a pistol from the table and walked over.
“What’s going on?”
There was no response – merely the smell of burning as smoke started to flow down the corridor. Slamming the door shut, he turned and looked at his captive.
“It seems your father has sent his answer – a great pity. I had much respect for him, and for you,” he said as he aimed the gun at her. She stared straight back, unafraid, defiant, bur before he managed to fire the gun the door burst open.
“Oyabun,” his number two said as he came in, “it’s not her father, it’s…”
The arrow head appearing through his head made both captor and captive stare as the man slowly dropped to the floor, and the black clad woman approached, another arrow already strung in her bow.
“Sairento shi,” he whispered, the colour draining from his face as a second black clad woman appeared, and walked over to Tamiko, using a set of lock picks to release her wrists as the woman lowered her bow, and let it drop to the floor.
As Tamiko watched, Silent Death sprang across the floor, turning on one foot as the other connected with Yashimi’s arm and sent the gun flying across the floor, before she changed feet, the second one slamming into his chest as he was thrown against the wall.
As Tamiko rubbed her wrists, the second masked woman produced a thin blade and sliced through the silver band around her mouth, peeling it away while Yashimi tried to stand up – only to feel the foot against his throat as his larynx was crushed, and he looked into her blue eyes.
She turned and watched as the other masked woman helped Tamiko to stand up.
“With all due respect,” she said as she bowed, “I must ask you to leave him to me. It is required.”
Looking at Yashimi, she nodded as she stood back and bowed, her assistant doing likewise as Tamiko picked up the pistol.
“You have shamed yourself, Yashimi,” Tamiko said quietly as she looked at him, “and by your actions have hurt innocents, and possibly caused irreparable harm to the families. I am no saint, but next to you I am a tennyo. You do not even deserve the option of an honourable death.”
He stared back up at her as she fired three shots – one into his groin, one into his stomach, and one into his head, before looking down at him.
“Have any survived?”
The woman shook her head, and then bowed, indicating the doorway. They followed Tamiko as she walked out of what she now realised was a hanger building, and out to where Natalya, Niki and Jill were waiting by a black limousine.
“I thank you,” Tamiko said as she bowed, “this will not be forgotten. I wish to speak to my father.”
“He waits for you, we will take you to him,” Niki said as she opened the door.
“He will wish to thank you personally – please, be ready for noon tomorrow.” Turning to the two masked women, she then bowed low and said “Be assured, we are forever in the debt of Madame Lu and Madame X. Their kindness will not be forgotten or left unrewarded. May we meet under better circumstances.”
The two bowed as low as Tamiko got into the car with Niki and Jill, while Natalya looked at the two.
“Come – I’ll take you back and we will have one last drink together.”
“Four more days,” Nikki said as Pepsi sat at the table, “and then it’s the party to end all parties!”
“Until the next party to end all parties,” Bobbi said with a grin.
“Indeed – all expected at the Monticello in your finery for seven o’clock,” Pepsi said, “and no excuses.”
She glanced over at Poppy, who gave a little nod before she looked back at her posse.
“So who’s providing the music?”
“Sandy recommended this DJ, so he’ll be working on it all night. And there will be the usual full complement of chaperones.”
“Have you figured out how to support the younger generation?”
“Got some ideas in mind – we’ll see what happens.”
“So your mom flies out tomorrow night?”
“Yeah,” Abby said as she sat with Letty, “so I’m going to bunk down with Jo’s sister for a few days. But, when she gets back, the plans start for November.”
“Well, at least you don’t have to travel for the moment,” Letty said with a smile. “Are you going to the party Friday?”
“Believe it or not, as a chaperone,” Abby said. “It’s going to be an interesting evening…”
“Excellent news Natalya – please, pass on my congratulations to all concerned.”
“I shall do so, Madame,” Natalya said. “With your permission, I shall travel back via Los Angeles, to ensure Louise, Victoria and Charlene are safely placed with Maddie and her team. I think I owe them that much.”
“I agree – take time to recover there, and I shall see you at the weekend. Maddie will be delighted to meet with you.”
“Thank you Madame – the offer is gratefully received.”
“And Helen and Marina?”
“Will return to Hong Kong tomorrow. They should be with Catherine by three tomorrow.”
“Then all that remains is to thank you again, Natalya. We will talk again at the weekend.”
“Thank you Madame – and pass on my good wishes to the Mogola team.”
As the call ended, Shirley sat back and let out a sigh.
“Good news Madame?”
“Indeed Susan – Natalya has completed her task, and is returning home. I expect I will have a call from Tanaka in due course, which I believe I will take at the apartment. We have cause to celebrate tonight.”
“All right then… We need to take in the waist a little here, lift the hem…”
Erica shook her head as she looked at herself in the mirror while Mary pinned
her dress and noted where to make alterations. "I look like one hot
"You might do if I can get these alterations done...Please don't fidget Erica."
"If you make this dress any tighter and more figure hugging, I'll not be able to wear any underwear."
"That's the idea Erica." Mary said as she stood back for a second and looked.
"Well Mom how do I look?" Erica asked as her mother entered.
God," Denice's jaw dropped, "You look
will do when I finish."
"Mary I can't thank you enough." Denice shook her head.
“Ach, I needed to get out of the office and my house for a couple of hours – my new best friends felt I was safe enough here in this oasis of calm with you for tonight.”
“It’s amazing – two parties within a week of each other.”
“And you are sorted for Friday?”
“I think so – Mom’s loaning me her old fur coat for the night, and the rest I’ve managed to pull together.”
“Excellent. Right, Get out of that and put it back in the dress bag – I’ll get it done in the morning.”
“Coffee,” Denice said as she put the mug down on the coffee table.
“Ah, thank you,” Mary said as she sat down. “I need this.”
“Did Juliette arrive safely?”
“So Janine said when she called today – she got straight to work, and they’re having dinner tonight with the Paris based staff.”
“I still don’t understand – who would want to try and shoot you three?”
“It’s a funny world,
Tuesday 22nd September
Noon Local Time
“Well,” Natalya said as she looked out of the window, “it took time and effort, but we are done here, and others must carry on the work.”
“The ladies will meet us at the airport,” Niki said as she looked at her tablet, “all their belongings have already been shipped to LA.”
“Good,” Natalya said as she turned and looked at the others. Jill was dressed as the embassy official she was, while Niki was wearing a black leather skirt and jacket over a round necked top.
“Now my life goes back to its official routine.” Jill sighed.
“And I go back to running a small branch office.” Niki smiled.
“I’d have thought after all this that some peace and quiet would be very welcome.” Natalya said as she locked her suitcase.
“Well this last period has reminded me just why I joined Madame’s organization in the first place.” Jill spoke quietly, “to be both useful and engaged, but also to enjoy the thrills.”
“Well,” Natalya said with a smile, “Madame has indicated you are both in line for a substantial bonus for your work in all this.”
“Oh the money will always be useful.” Niki spoke again, “but I’m like Jill, I joined up to reap benefits far beyond mere cash rewards. I’d like to see some more action as well.”
“Then I will tell Madame you are both… What is the saying, chaffing at the bit.” Natalya smiled.
Each woman looked at the others, then as if by some pre-ordained signal they hugged, just as a knock on the door broke the spell of the moment.
“Now who can that be?” Natalya glanced at her watch.
“Probably the porter come to collect your bags.”
“It’s a little early for that Jill.”
Slowly Natalya walked to the door and looked through the peephole, seeing Tamiko and an older gentleman standing there.
“Stand down,” she whispered as Niki and Jill returned their weapons to their holsters, and she opened the door.
“Tamiko – I trust you have had a chance to rest from your ordeal?”
“I have thank you – please, may we enter?”
“Of course,” Natalya said as she stood to the side, Tamiko allowing the older man to enter first. As they did, Jill immediately bowed her head and said “Oyabun Tanaka – you honour us with your presence.”
Natalya looked at Niki and Jill as she closed the door, and then both she and Niki bowed as well.
“Forgive my ignorance, Honoured Father,” Natalya said as she bowed again. She looked at Tamiko, in her dark jacket and skirt, white blouse and dark leather heels, and saw the reverence in her eyes as she stood watching.
“I wished to meet in person those who arranged for my beloved daughter to return to me,” Tanaka said quietly as he stood by the window. He was tall, well dressed in a dark tailored suit, silk shirt and dark tie, and carried himself with authority. “I also wished to thank them for their assistance to rid our city of the cankerous sore that were the Death Dragons.”
“The honour was ours, Honoured Sir – but I am a mere functionary of Madame X, and I serve at her will.”
“And the two who rescued my daughter?”
“With deep regret, I have to report that they had to return to their master this morning. They also serve at the bequest of their master, but they have indicated they wish to share their gladness that they were able to return Tamiko to you.”
“I understand,” Tanaka said with a smile, “if you are in contact with them, please them know of my thanks and my gratitude.”
Tamiko allowed herself a little smile as her father looked round the room.
“I have passed on my congratulations to Madame on the efficiency of her operatives, and the exemplary manner in which you have done your business.”
“Thank you Honoured Sir.” Natalya bowed. “We have done our humble best.”
“I hope that you will one day return to our city purely as a visitor,” Tanaka said as he looked at them, “and my daughter and I can show you the best things to see.”
“That would be wonderful.” Natalya bowed again.
“If I may break with protocol,” Tamiko smiled, “I’d like to do this.”
Carefully Tamiko proceeded to hug each of the western women, smiling and bowing as she finished.
“Thank you for that honour Tamiko.” Natalya bowed in return. “May I say that despite a few cultural differences, it has been a pleasure to work with you as well.”
“So where do you head to next Natalya?”
“Home for a rest, and then wherever I’m needed I suppose Tamiko.”
the three young ‘ladies’ - what of them?"
expressed a desire to undergo a particular kind of surgery. I accompany them to the United States, where
associates of Madame are ready to ensure they have all they need."
a western colloquialism,” Tamiko said quietly, “they
have each showed a lot of balls throughout this affair Natalya."
"They have Tamiko," Natalya smiled at the pun, "but I think each will be far happier if they are fully what their brain believes themselves to be."
“Quite so,” Tanaka said as he smiled. “Well, I will not detain you any longer. May your journey be safe and pleasant, and may you know success in all you undertake.”
“And may your family prosper and grow,” Natalya said as she bowed again, walking to the door as Tanaka left, Tamiko following. “I do hope we meet again,” she said with a smile before they walked to the lift, stepping in as Natalya watched.
“That – was intense,” Jill said.
“I agree,” Niki said as she sat down, “but we are known now, which has some advantages.”
“Indeed – but now, I need a drink. Come – join me for one,” she said, “and then we will depart for the airport.”
4 pm Local Time
Tokyo international Airport
“There you are,” Natalya said as Louise came over with Victoria and Charlene – but Victoria and Charlene as the others had never seen them. Although Louise was wearing a light jacket over a blouse and skirt, both Victoria and Charlene were wearing suits, shirts and ties, Victoria with short fair hair and Charlene close cut brown hair.
“Somehow, it just doesn’t look like them,” Niki said as they nervously clutched their passports and boarding passes, both looking for once like the slender young men that they were.
“These clothes just feel so wrong.” Victoria said as he glanced down at the clothes ‘she’ was wearing. “I feel like a fish out of water.”
“Just remember that, for a few more weeks, each of your passports says you are male.” Natalya replied. “So as uncomfortable as it may feel, at least until we get you to LA you must look the part. And besides, Louise and I could not ask for finer escorts.”
“I was under the impression you were escorting us,” Charlene said with a smile.
“And remember our clothes are already in LA.” Lou smiled.
“Louise it has been a pleasure.” Jill said as she kissed him on the cheek.
“Indeed it has.” Niki did the same.
“And it has been wonderful working with you both,” Louise said. “Hopefully the next time we meet I will be a fully fledged member of the organization if you get what I mean.”
“We understand.” Jill laughed.
“We need to go through,” Natalya said, “thank you both for everything.”
There were final hugs, and then the quartet headed through security.
“Well Jill,” Niki said, “what are we going to do for excitement now.”
“Oh I don’t know – how does a little petty larceny sound?”
“Nah – but a little grand larceny sounds good…”
3.30 pm Local Time
Hong Kong, Catherine Lu’s Apartment
Catherine looked up as the front door of the apartment, and stood while she watched Helen and Marina come in.
“Welcome home,” she said as they put their bags down.
“Thank you, Mistress,” Helen said with a bow. “Our thanks for allowing us to stay to remedy the situation.”
“Well, all is well – Natalya is with the three girls at the airport, waiting in first class, and Tanaka himself has been in touch both to offer his thanks, and also to confirm the sale of the textile business to Huntingdown’s.”
“Excellent news indeed, Mistress,” Marina said as she stood with her head bowed.
“Well, for now you may relax – Kylie will be home soon, so I suggest you unpack and settle in.”
“If I may ask Mistress, what of Operation Hunt Down?”
“Not relevant to us, I am pleased to say. It was a contingency plan for handling a potential war after Tanaka fell – a situation you avoided with diplomacy and skill. So go, change and unpack. I think we shall go out tonight and celebrate.”
“As you wish,” Helen and Marina said in unison before they headed to their rooms, as Catherine returned to her office.
“Apologies Juliette – as I was saying, the purchase has been completed.”
“Good,” Juliette said in the window, “I take it Helen and Marina are back.”
“Indeed – and Tanaka is not behind the attack on you.”
“Yeah – it is looking as if Ed Mitchell is responsible in some way, but no word yet on how. So Jeanne remains my shadow for the moment.”
“Well, I am sure you will enjoy Paris in the autumn. We will talk soon Juliette.”
“Indeed – have a pleasant evening Cathy.”
8 am Local Time
“Here she is,” Klaus said as Juliette joined him, Janine and Jeanne at the breakfast table.
“Sorry – some business to conclude in Hong Kong,” Juliette said as she sat down. “Catherine had been negotiating for a new silk supplier, and she needed to take me through the details.”
“So you managed to complete the deal,” Janine said as she sipped her coffee.
“Indeed – café noir est jus d’orange, si’l vous plait?”
The waitress nodded as Juliette selected some fruit from the platter in the middle of the table.
“Well, once I have you and Janine safely delivered to the Louvre, I have a meeting with my former superiors,” Jeanne said. “But I will only be gone a short time.”
“I will watch them until your return,” Klaus said, “with the greatest of pleasure.”
“Should I be flattered or worried?”
“Yes, yes you should,” Juliette said with a smile as she sipped her juice.
Janine looked at her cell phone and raised an eyebrow. “Fiona’s coming to see you tonight – she says it’s private. I’ll get a call from her at the show when she arrives.”
“Fiona? I thought she was staying in London for the moment.” Sipping her drink, Juliette said “All right then – I wonder what she wants?”
“Hey,” Erica said as she jumped into the car, “ready for another day of learning?”
“Only three days now,” Pepsi said with a grin as Caroline set off.
“All right, all right – some of us have to wait a few more weeks,” Doc said as she looked at her chemistry book.
“An extra assignment I was set for a project by Mrs. Craig. Keeps the mind busy, don’t you know.”
“Fair enough,” Pepsi said with a smile. “What about you Bones – what joys await you today?”
“A packed schedule of English, Spanish and PE with some History and Geography for added excitement,” Erica said with a grin as she saw Rochelle and her gang watching from the street.
The young girl looked up from her lunch to see Kate Hardisty standing there.
“Mrs. Hardisty? Something wrong?”
“No – but Pippa Ashley is in reception. She said she wished to see you and Mrs. Brand, if that was possible.”
“Great – work calls again,” Jeannie said as she wiped her mouth, “I’ll see you girls in next class.” Putting the bottle of water she was drinking from in her lap, she followed Kate to Grace’s office, where Pippa was waiting.
“Sorry to drag you from your lunch, Jeannie,” Pippa said, “but I’m dealing with a few things by coming out here.” Knocking on the door, she heard Grace say, “come” before she opened the door wide.
“Hello Pippa, this is a long way off your usual stomping grounds.” Grace stood up, walked round and ushered the editor and Jeannie into her office.
“Well I wanted to show you the pictures from your shoot with Christian Grace, and Jeannie’s shoot with Jack.”
“Well come in both of you and let’s look.”
“What do you think?” Pippa asked as she carefully laid the pictures out on Grace’s desk. “These are the very best of two extraordinary portfolios from each shoot.”
“Damn these are good.” Grace held some up carefully to examine, “Christian has lost none of his touch has he.”
“No, but I think you inspire him as well.”
“Thank you Pippa - that was nice of you to say that.”
“Are these a bit too fetish and not high fashion enough?” Jeannie said as she looked up from the prints she was looking at.
“Oh my God…NO!” Pippa laughed, “They are simply perfect.”
“I shot far worse back in the day Jeannie.” Grace picked a print up. “These I am jealous to say are truly wonderful.”
“Well as long as Mum doesn’t get the wrong idea.” Jeannie grinned.
“Oh she won’t.” Pippa laughed.
At the sound of a knock on the door, Grace got up and went and opened the door.
“Is my Mom…?”
“She is Poppy. Come in.”
“I was just showing Grace and Jeannie some prints darling.” Pippa hugged her daughter.
“Oh my – they do make you both look wonderful,” Poppy said as she looked at them.
“Well, I hope you’ll approve them for use – and apologise to Juliette that she’s not getting them this time.”
“You haven’t seen the tribute issue yet,” Jeannie said, “I’ve seen the early proofs, and it’s something special.”
“I’ll look forward to it,” Pippa said as she collected the photos, “and I’ll let Missy see the whole shoot later. Right now, you have classes and other things to do.”
“Indeed,” Jeannie said, “let’s roll.”
As the two girls walked out, Grace said “Poppy seems a bit happier now.”
“Yeah – I think spending Sunday at the shoot gave her a chance to get to know a couple of the girls a bit more.”
“She does seem to be happier this week – how is she at home?”
“We talk a lot, make sure we’re both safe – did you know she wants to be a doctor?”
“No I didn’t.”
“She told me last night – knocked me for six, but I’ll support her every step of the way.”
Nodding, Grace heard the first bell ring. “Back to the coalface for me I’m afraid – Spanish class,” she said as she stood up. “I’ll hear from you soon Pip.”
“Depend on it Gray.”
12.30 pm Pacific Time
Rhenia looked at her boss and said “what do you think? Given everything that has happened, I’ll just be glad to hold her again.”
“Might as well get used to saying that,” the young raven haired woman said as the watched the doors that led from the arrivals area, people coming through in small groups.
“Well hello there, darling sister.”
Rhenia sighed with relief as she saw Louise walking from the doors, beside two thin well dressed men and Natalya pushing a trolley with their bags.
“Louise,” Rhenia said as she walked quickly over and hugged her, “I am so glad to see you again.”
“Was there ever any doubt? After all, I could hardly leave my big sister alone, could I?”
“Natalya,” Maddie said as she hugged the young Russian, “welcome to LA. Very very well done indeed.”
“I was glad to be of service,” Natalya said with a smile. “This is Victoria and Charlene, Louise’s companions from the assignment.”
“Welcome, both of you,” Maddie said as she and Rhenia hugged them, “Did you have a good flight?”
“A strange one,” Louise said, “we arrived before we left?”
“International date line – a strange thing, but useful here. Come – we have a car waiting for you. Natalya, I hope you do not mind if we drop these three off at the apartment they will use first.”
“Of course,” Natalya said. “We all managed to sleep on the plane, so we can enjoy the day.”
Forty minutes later, the limousine pulled in to the front of the apartment building, Maddie leading the way as the six of them made their way to the penthouse.
“We secured this as somewhere the three of you can stay while the full arrangements are made for you,” Maddie said as they walked into the main room. “Hopefully all three of you will be comfortable here.”
“Wow,” Victoria said as she looked out of the window to the balcony, “this is amazing.”
“Well, all three of you were placed in danger – it is the least we could do. But you will want to freshen up from your journey – Louise, you have the first door on the left along this hallway, Victoria the second door on the left, and Charlene the door on the right.”
The trio looked at each other and made their way along, gasping as they saw the bedrooms while Rhenia went to check the kitchen.
Thirty minutes later, all three returned, Victoria and Charlene now wearing pants and blouses.
“Is that fresh coffee I smell,” Louise said as she came out.
“It is – you have all you need here, and security is guaranteed. Rhenia will stay for a while to answer your questions – but Natalya and I need to attend a business meeting.”
“We will have dinner together tonight however,” Natalya said, “before I return to my place of business. I would like to the chance to finally meet all three of you socially.”
“I’ll make the reservations – any requests?”
“Well,” Louise said as she looked at the others, “I would kill for a decent steak.”
“That actually sounds good,” Charlene said, “if I am being honest, I can live for a while without seeing fish.”
“Okay – I know this little place that serves amazing steaks. Rhenia, I will call with times.”
“Gotcha Boss,” Rhenia said as Maddie and Natalya left.
“I have a room reserved for you at the Beverly Hills Hilton for the next three nights,” Maddie said as they returned to the car. “We’ll drive you there, and give you a chance to settle. I’ll let you know the place and time for dinner.”
“Thank you,” Natalya said, “some down time would be welcome.”
“You did good work,” Maddie said, “and I know both Madame and Dominique are looking forward to seeing you.”
“And I them,” Natalya said as the car moved off.
8.30 pm CET
“Juliette, my dear – how delightful it is to see you again.”
Juliette turned and smiled as she saw the elderly gentleman standing there, in the tailored suit, lavender shirt and blue tie.
“Nikolai – what a delight to see you again too. Is Valeria here with Guy as well?”
“Sadly no – but I will be lunching with them tomorrow. May I say you looked divine on the stage tonight?”
“Well, I still seem to be able to do something,” she said with a smile as Jeanne and Janine came over. “Ladies may I present Prince Nikolai Barskov.” Juliette announced. “Nikolai is Valeria’s cousin.”
“We met at Tasha’s wedding.” Jeanne allowed the prince to kiss her on both cheeks.”
“We did indeed. It is a pleasure to see you again, and I trust your father is well?”
“He is indeed, he and I now live in New York, and I will pass on your good wishes to him.
“This is my Personal Assistant Janine,” Ju made the introduction as Janine blushed.
“Enchante Mademoiselle.” The Prince kissed her hand.
“So what are you here for Nikolai? I know you are an admirer of beautiful women.”
“Well,” Nikolai said with a smile, “I am here with two beautiful young ladies…”
“Oh?” Juliette raised an eyebrow.
“No, not that sort of young lady Juliette. Either I’ve got too slow, or they have got too fast for me.” The prince chuckled. “No these two young ladies are my granddaughters…May I present the Princesses Alicia and Katrin Barskov, girls meet Mademoiselle Huntingdown and two of her friends.”
“Hello,” one of the girls spoke shyly, “I’m Alicia, and she’s Katrin.”
Juliette looked at the two girls, she judged them both to be about 16, and both just about to emerge from the cocoon that Upper Class French girls develop in before they suddenly spring on the world as fully formed butterflies.
“Is your Grandfather taking you to many shows?” asked Janine.
“No only this one,” Katrin replied quietly.
“But if I must take them to one, it shall be the best,” Nikolai said with a grin as the girls looked round.
“Is it true you know Abigail de Ros,” Alicia asked.
“I do indeed – Diana should be arriving tomorrow morning Nikolai, so doubtless you will see her and Mandy with Guy and Valeria tomorrow.”
“Ah yes – the presentation season. Something you girls will experience in due course. For now, however, we must circulate. I will see you during your stay?”
“I hope so,” Juliette said as Janine looked at her tablet.
“Juliette – Fiona is at the hotel.”
“Forgive me, Nikolai, I need to go to a meeting,” Juliette said as she headed for the door with the other two women, taking Klaus with them as they headed out.
9.45 pm CET
The George V Hotel
“I’ll get it,” Klaus said as he and Juliette heard the knock on the door. Walking over, he opened the door and looked for a moment, before he said “Fiona? Please, tell me I am wrong?”
“Aye, ah wish ae could Klaus,” Fiona said as Juliette stood up, and saw her old friend come in. She looked tired, her face grey, and a red headscarf covered her head as she looked at Juliette.
“Hello Lassie – it’s guid tae see yae. Dae ye mind if ah sit doon – I get tired easily just now.”
“Of course,” Juliette said as Klaus took the Scot’s arm, and escorted her over to the long chair while Juliette started to heat some water.
“Fiona, what happened?”
“Ah fink Klaus has half guessed – ahm ah right?”
“Please, Fiona, tell me it is not…”
“Nah – it’s mah blood, not mah chest,” Fiona said with a sigh. “Tea wuld be lovely, Ju.”
“Leukemia? When did you find out,” Klaus said as he held her hand.
“A month or so back, I’ve had two course o radiotherapy already – with obvious results,” Fiona said as she pointed to her head. “ah teld Anne and Mary lahst week, but ah wanted to tell ye mahself, Ju.”
“How are you coping?”
“Ju, lass, Ah’m a fighter – and this I will beat,” Fiona said as she took the tea. “But ah don’t wann any fuss or boffer - ah’m still working, and ah’ve got guid friends.”
Juliette sat next to Fiona, and said “you have, and we’re with you every step of the way. Can I tell the others.”
“Aye – but tell them that I want no fuss.”
Klaus and Juliette looked at each other as Fiona sipped her tea, and then looked at them. “Besides – I have money on your wedding, ahn I wanna collect.”
4 pm Pacific Time
Beverly Hills Hilton
“… and that concludes my final report, Madame.” Natalya sat on the balcony of her room, looking at her laptop.
“Congratulations Natalya on a job well done.” Madame’s face smiled on the screen.
“Thank You, it got a bit tricky at times, but I think we got the best possible result from this part of the war.”
“Indeed you did.”
“Madame, can I make a recommendation please?”
“Go ahead,” Shirley said as she sat back.
“Louise I thought was either the bravest, or most foolish person I ever met when she went undercover. More than anything she wants to be part of your organization…”
“The matter is already in hand Natalya,” Shirley said, “once Louise has had her operation, I’m arranging for her to enter one of our training programmes.”
“She will like that, and as I was going to say my admiration for her bravery and fortitude knows no bounds.”
“Thank You, Madame.”
“Now,” Shirley said, “let us discuss the matter of yourself?”
“Alright.” Natalya swallowed.
“I’d like for you to consider taking up a senior position at headquarters,” Madame said quietly, “working security and enforcement for me, now that Dominique is working mainly out of New York.”
“I think I’d like that…what would my cover be?”
“We will discuss on Friday when you arrive here – for now, enjoy the rest and the meal.”
“Thank you Madame,” Natalya said with a smile as she ended the call, and sat back, looking out over the landscape.
The Richmond Mansion
“Abby settled in,” Heather said without looking up from her book as Sandy came in.
“Apart from saying how strange it feels to be in Jo’s bed? Yeah – she’s just gone to bed as well,” Sandy said as she took off her gown.
“Good, good,” Heather said as she looked through her glasses, and turned the page.
“’Tactics in Guerilla Warfare’? Hardly your usual reading matter lover.” Sandy looked at the title of the book Heather was reading as she climbed into bed.
“I know, but Charlotte has asked for anyone to give her some ideas of how to stop construction on this airstrip in Mogola, and I thought I’d try help out.”
“And have you learned anything?”
“A lot, but what use it is to the situation at hand I don’t know.” Heather adjusted her glasses. “Some of this is stuff we worked out instinctively when we started robbing banks and pulling other raids…”
“Oh crime has similarities with warfare?” Sandy snuggled up close to her girlfriend.
“A few, and if you keep kissing my neck like that I will never finish this chapter.” Heather giggled.
“That was my aim lover…”
“Hold on!” Heather suddenly sat bolt upright, “Oh Dear Artemis, this is so logical, why didn’t anybody think of it?”
“Think of what?”
“Don’t destroy the airfield, destroy the planes they have brought to use it…Oh I am so stupid not to have thought of it.”
“I still don’t get it…”
“It’s simple Sandy, we know the Chinese have six planes parked at the airport in the capital, we target them and NOT the airstrip.” Heather laughed, “Even they can’t replace six planes cheaply or easily.”
“Still tricky lover – aren’t they at a commercial airport?”
“Hmm – but it’s an idea, right?”
“Right – now put the book down and come here.”
Wednesday 22nd September
11 am Local Time
“So, what do you think?”
“Well it’s a great idea in theory Heather.” Charlotte paused as she thought. “But a few things do occur to me. First is that the Chinese have those planes under heavy guard. Second that is a busy little airport and the chances of civilian casualties are huge, and thirdly, even if we do get close, we don’t really have people trained in sabotage and demolitions.”
“I know all that, but it is the best way to move forward, we just need to work up a plan that minimizes the minuses.”
“Alright I will give you that.”
“If Blondie can get me all the details on the airport as to guards, their positions, etc, etc. I can see how it looks and try working something out, after all infiltration is really what we do a lot of.”
“Okay I will try to have her get the intel to you within 48 hours Heather.”
“Thanks Charlotte, and I’ll also see what my ‘borrowed’ Chinese satellite can show me.”
“Talk to you soon,” Heather said as she ended the call.
“What did your contact offer,” Leader said as Charlotte came out of the tent.
“Cut off the head – come on, I’ll explain over coffee.”
9 am CET
George V Hotel, Paris
Janine sat back and looked at Juliette as she let the news sink in.
“Leukemia? Fiona? Oh lord – how is she?”
“She’s Fiona,” Juliette said quietly, “she’s not going to let this get her down or stop her. So when you see her this morning…”
“Jes tell her she looks wonderful an leave it at tha.”
“Good morning Fiona,” Klaus said as he stood up and pulled a chair out, “how are you feeling this morning?”
“Betta than ah did last night,” the Scot said with a smile as she sat down. “Can I have some English tea and brown toast please?”
“Not much these days Janine darling,” Fiona said as she looked round. “Looks as if we will have some company as well.”
“What do you mean?” Juliette looked round to see Diana and Mandy walk into the dining room.
“Ah there you are darlings,” Mandy said as she walked over, “I was afraid we would not have a chance to meet you before… Fiona?”
“Morning Mandy,” Fiona said as she poured her tea, “and how are ye today lass?”
“How am I? Fiona, either you have decided that Carolyn Franklin has been right all along about scarves, or…”
“It’s or,” Fiona said quietly. “Sit down, both of ye, and we’ll talk.”
“Talk of what,” Diana said, and then she looked at Fiona. “Oh mon dieu - ne me dites pas que vous avez la maladie noire?”
Diana hugged her old friend and then sat with her as Fiona looked round the table. “See, this is how I’ll beat it – wi friends like alla ye to help me.”
FBI Field Office, New York
“All right,” Tom said as he sat with Adam, Jan and Sergeant Rizzo, “where are we?”
“Cabe has confessed to the San Antonio shooting, and SAPD are talking to him now. He’s looking to cut a deal – give up those who hired him in return for the death penalty coming off the table.”
“Do you think they will buy it,” Tom said as he looked at Rizzo.
“I think so, once they hear the rest of the package.”
“We’ve looked at the information Ed gave us,” Adam said, “and he does indeed have evidence of his employer been in deep with attempts to overcharge the federal government. He believes they paid Cabe to kill Kerry Hull in an attempt to flush him out – and when that didn’t work, they went after his ex-wife instead.”
“Problem is,” Tom said, “that doesn’t explain why Cabe tried to shoot Anne and the others.”
“Well,” Jan said as she crossed her legs, “want to hear the really funny part?”
“Oh no,” Tom said, “don’t tell me Ed tried to hire someone to scare off Anne…”
“… and the name he was given was Cabe. He confirms hiring him to scare her, not shoot her – for which I give him credit, and a slap around the head at the same time. But, and it’s a big but, it confirms the real danger is around Anne, not Mary or Juliette.”
“If he’s telling the truth?”
“If, as you say Tom, he is telling the truth.”
Tom sat back and looked at all three of them. “So how long before we check the info he gave us?”
“Tomorrow possibly – Majewski can update us. In the meantime, what do we do with him?”
“Well, he’s effectively copped to second degree manslaughter, if you take a strict view of the law, but I’ll let the DA sort that one out. In the meantime, maintain the shadow on Anne and Mary – Jeanne has Juliette under her eye, but if she relaxes, no harm done in my book. We meet again tomorrow at ten – in the meantime, keep me informed Rizzo.”
6 pm CET
George V Hotel, Paris
Klaus came in to see Juliette curled up on the ottoman in their suite, reading a well thumbed book.
“What are you doing my darling?”
“Oh, what I always do when I’m blocked on what to write,” Juliette said, “re-reading Alison Adburgham’s book ‘View of fashion’.”
“And you do that why?”
“Because I don’t think anyone has ever written about fashion with as much style, grace, wit, and humour, as she did. I know I’ll never be able to match her, and she was writing about a completely different world back in the fifties and sixties, but she still usually triggers something to say in my mind.”
“I will have to read it myself.” Klaus smiled. “So what drives you back to such a learned tome?”
“Well,” Juliette said as she out the book down, “so far the collections seem to have no central theme, there are no new ideas, nothing startlingly original…”
“I thought you were predicting this year’s Met Gala would have a lot of designers reaching for Chinese references and materials?”
“I did, but really compared to both New York and London, the effect has been minimal.”
“So what does that leave you to write?”
“Honestly? That I basically have NOTHING to write.”
“So,” Klaus said as he took her hand, “how about instead of you slaving over your computer, that we go buy some good wine, some bread, some cheese, some meat, and have an alfresco supper down by the banks of the Seine.”
“Mmmm that sounds good…but what about Jeanne and Janine?”
“They can find their own suppers tonight.” Klaus leaned over and kissed Juliette full on her lips.
“Sold,” she said quietly. “I’ll leave a message for her at the front desk. I’m sure they will find something to do…”
11 pm CET
George V Hotel
“That Fiona of all people should be struck in this way – it seems so unfair,” Mandy said as she nursed her drink.
“I agree,” Diana said quietly.
“Look, she’d kill us if she saw us moping for her,” Juliette said as she finished her drink. “I’ll call Mother before I go to bed, let her…”
The four turned and looked to the lobby as they heard the giggling, and then saw Jeanne and Janine stumble in, wearing short skirts, blouses and heels.
“Oops – looks like we disturbed them,” Janine said with a giggle as she looked at them.
“So where have you two been till this late at night?” Juliette said as she tried to look sternly at Jeanne and Janine.
“Nikolai Barskov invited us out tonight,” Jeanne said, “he took us both to Maxim’s to eat…”
“And then back to his apartment.” Janine interrupted Jeanne.
“Oh no you didn’t…did you?”
“Juliette you have a disgustingly dirty mind!” Jeanne grinned.
“And besides the two of us at once? I think we’d kill him” Janine giggled.
“He’s not as young as he thinks he is eh?” Klaus said slyly.
“No.” Janine giggled again, “so he got some cuddles and kisses, but our honour was not besmirched.”
“He’s old enough to be our grandfather…”
“But of course he still has that fatal charm?” Jeanne this time interrupted Janine.
“If he was 30 years younger, you know I might fancy becoming a princess…”
“You’d be his fifth wife.” Juliette finally cracked and laughed aloud.
“Well it might be nice to be his widow.”
“Okay - I think it’s well past both your bedtimes.” Klaus stood up and put an arm round Janine’s waist to help her to the suite she was sharing with Jeanne.
“Lead on Juliette!” Jeanne said as she linked arms with the American.
“Oh Goddess they are both smashed out of their minds.” Juliette shook her head.
“To bed, and a drink of water before you retire,” Klaus said as they went into the lift.
“We were that young once,” Diana said as she looked at Mandy.
“True, darling, but never that forward – were we?”
Thursday 23rd September
9 am CET
George V Hotel
“Ah – and how do we feel this morning,” Juliette said as the two younger women came in.
“Oh my head!” Janine lifted her dark glasses up, then thought better of it as she sat down at the breakfast table.
“More Orange Juice please,” Klaus signaled to a waiter.
“So how do you feel after your big night out with a prince?” Juliette asked.
“And I feel worse then she does.” Jeanne said as she sat down and groaned.
“That will teach you both to be sucked in by an old roué like Nikolai,” Juliette said with a grin.
“I think Nikolai was born a century too late Juliette my love.”
“Well he acts like someone from the gay nineties Klaus darling. I think he may even give the celebrated Barty Rhymaes a run for his money.”
“He acts as though this was still that time Ju.” Jeanne sipped her juice. “We each received the hugest bunch of roses this morning.”
“And these,” Janine pulled out a jeweler’s box, and opened it to exhibit the diamond bracelet within. “I will have to return it.”
“If you do he will be profoundly insulted Janine.” Klaus told her.
“I know, but it’s still not right to take…”
“Has he asked to see you again?”
“He invited us out tonight – I’m not sure if I can keep up with him,” Jeanne groaned.
“Well, there is an easy solution – invite him to join us. We’re dining with Valeria and Guy – maybe they can distract him?”
“That’s a thought – right, we’ll send a message to him,” Janine said as she took out her cell phone, and then looked at Juliette.
“Waiter,” Klaus said, “we need to send a message to Prince Nikolai Barskov.”
“Of course, your highness – leave it at the desk and we will have it hand delivered within the hour.”
“Sometimes,” Klaus said as he smiled at Jeanne and Janine, “you need to use the old ways.”
6 pm CET
George V Hotel
“Well, it is a pity you will not be able to join us,” Juliette said as she and Klaus sat with Jeanne and Janine in the bar, “but if he has a pre-arranged dinner with friends, and he has invited you, of course you must go.”
“I have to agree – there are protocols in these things,” Klaus said as he sipped his drink.
“I know,” Janine said, “bur how do we avoid a repeat of last night?”
“Alright Janine,” Jeanne said as she put her palm hard on the table, “rules for tonight…”
“First,” she said as she raised one finger, “we put on a show for Nikolai’s friends.”
“Hence why we are dressed to the nines?” Janine was wearing her Dior suit, while Jeanne had on a cream coloured dress with a high collar and long skirt.
“Right, secondly we DO NOT drink too much champagne tonight and get ourselves in the state we got last night?”
“After the hangover I had this morning? Agreed wholeheartedly.”
“Thirdly,” Jeanne said as she raised another finger, “we go back to his apartment, and we make sure that he knows that whatever nefarious little plan he has to get us into bed will not work.”
“And finally, we are back here, tucked up in our own beds by midnight.”
“I could not agree more Jeanne.”
“Well you both look amazing.” Klaus smiled at the two young women. “Does all this mean Nikolai gets lucky tonight?”
“NO!” they shouted back in unison.
“The cunning old bastard may think he has bought us with roses and diamonds…”
“But all he gets is a peck on the cheek when we say goodnight.” Janine interrupted Jeanne.
“Well, bon chance,” Juliette said with a smile, “and we’ll send the search party out to look for the pumpkin if you’re not back by then.”
“Let us,” Jeanne said as the two girls walked out, passing Diana as she came in with Guy and Valeria.
“And where are they going so finely dressed,” Valeria asked as they sat down.
“Nikolai has invited them to dinner with some friends – we met at a show the other day.”
“Ah yes,” Guy said, “we lunched with him and his granddaughters yesterday. Fine young ladies who will bloom in the coming years.”
“Are you sure they will be safe,” Juliette said.
“If they keep their wits about them, yes.”
“And if not?”
“Then we call Henri and warn him.”
“My dear young ladies, you look positively radiant tonight.”
Janine smiled as Nikolai looked at her and then turned to talk to his friend for a moment.
“Jeanne,” Janine whispered, “was that your hand under the table?”
“I thought not,” Janine, said as she looked at the other older men, “Nikolai or one of his friends has wandering hands.”
“Oh you got it as well,” Jeanne laughed, “these men are so old fashioned aren’t they?”
“But it’s kind of cute as well I guess…”
“Do not weaken Janine, remember what we said about our own beds.”
“I know, but I guess I’m a little bit of a sucker for silver hair and a wonderful moustache.”
“Come – dance with me,” the octogenarian said a she stood up and offered his hand to Janine.
“Why not,” the young girl said as she stood and walked onto the dance floor, Nikolai holding her as they danced to the big band.
“Nikolai…NO!” Janine said as she gently lifted the old gentleman’s hands from her ass to her waist.
“Are you sure?” he asked with a wicked look in his eye.
“Nikolai you are charming and suave, but you are…”
For a few seconds Janine was in shock as the old gentleman kissed her long and hard on the lips, and was amazed at herself for relaxing and enjoying it.
“No!” she broke the contact. “Nikolai you are far too old for this.”
“One is only as old as one allows oneself to be,” Nikolai said with a smile as they continued to dance, holding Janine close as Jeanne watched with a smile.
Janine watched as Jeanne danced with Nikolai, and then slowly walked back.
“Enjoy yourself?” Janine looked at Nikolai as he walked to the gents, before saying “well, did you notice?”
“How could I avoid it when he dances so close.” Janine groaned.
“He’s hung like a horse as you say in America…Can you imagine?”
“Don’t weaken Jeanne...we stick to our plan…Right?”
“I don’t know.”
“Jeanne!” Janine was genuinely shocked.
“Hey I’ve been a good girl for a long while. Maybe it’s time I let myself enjoy a little something different.”
“How much of this champagne have you had,” Janine said as one of Nikolai’s friends took her hand and led her out onto the dance floor.
“Not so much I can’t have another glass,” Jeanne said as she sipped her drink, and then refilled her glass before calling out “Garçon! Une autre bouteille de champagne s'il vous plait!”
“Come come ladies,” Nikolai said as he opened the door to his apartment, “A little nightcap and then I shall bid you a good evening.”
“Thank you, Count,” Jeanne said with a giggle as she leaned on Janine.
“What happened to rule two, Jeanne?”
“I’m not as drunk as last night,” Jeanne said as Nikolai brought both girls a drink.
“May I say what a pleasure it is to spend the evening with you again,” he said with a smile, “Salute!”
“Cheers,” Jeanie said as she sipped her drink, and then slowly sat down. “Do you mind if I sit down for a minute,” she said quietly.
“Are you all right, Janine?”
“Yeah – just need to catch my breath,” Janine said as she sipped her drink and Nikolai put on a Jacques Brel record.
“La Mer…” he started to croon as he took Jeanne’s hand and started to dance with her, Janine putting her glass down as her eyelids fluttered…
The young woman slowly opened her eyes as she saw Jeanne standing there, smiling as she adjusted the collar of her dress.
“Oh no Jeanne,” she said quietly, “don’t tell me…”
“All right – I will not. Come on – we can still get back to the hotel before midnight…”
Upper West Side
“Hey there,” Katherine said as she opened the door to Pepsi, “go on through. I thought you’d be at home looking forward to tomorrow.”
“Time for that later,” Pepsi said as she went into the front room, where Jan was reading the paper.
“Mom, I think we need talk.” Pepsi spoke to Jan.
“You know I like it when you call me Mom…”
“And I like her calling me Gran.” Katherine smiled as she brought in some sodas from the kitchen and handed them to Jan and Pepsi.
“So,” Jan said as she put the paper down, “what do we need talk about?”
“Katy…she’s been asking me an awful lot of questions about sex.”
Jan and Katherine looked at each other as Pepsi continued “I’m the last person to talk Mom, but she’s still only 12…”
“Nearly 13,” Katherine interrupted.
“And even I know that is far too young, even as grown up and mature as she has suddenly become.”
“I know.” Jan closed her eyes. “I’ll try reading her the riot act again.”
“And I’ll have a word with Sandy and Heather, so they tell George.”
“I hope that works Gran, but George is pretty much putty in her hands, she’s almost seduced him once.”
"Do you think so?"
“I do Mom and with the dress and the makeup she’s going to wear making her look a lot older…”
“Pot calling the kettle black darling?” Jan lifted a brow.
“I know, I am the last person really to say anything, but Mom I think she’s convincing herself she’s ready for sex.”
“All right – spread the word amongst your friends as well,” Jan said, “and we’ll talk to her before the party tomorrow…”
Friday 24th September
Pepsi woke up and got out of bed, walking through to the kitchen as she rubbed her eyes, and then put a pot of coffee on before she poured some cereal into a bowl.
“Funny – I thought when we turned sixteen we gave up on cereals and ate muffins.”
“Morning mom,” Pepsi said as she saw April standing in the door, “want some when it’s ready?”
“Oh yes,” April said as she sat down and looked at Pepsi.
“What – do I have spinach in my teeth or something?”
“I still remember when we took you home to our first apartment,” April said, “you were wrapped up in a blanket, with a pink hat on, and asleep in a chair, but when you opened your eyes and saw us, there was a wonderful little smile on your face. I don’t think that smile has ever really gone away.”
Pepsi turned and looked at April, before walking over and giving her a huge hug. “Have I told you recently you’re the best mom in the apartment?”
“And what am I, chopped liver?”
“Sorry Dad,” Pepsi said as she went over and hugged Grant. “You’re the best Dad a girl could wish for.”
“Happy Birthday Nicola,” Grant said as he kissed her forehead. “So, ready to open a few presents?”
“Oh can I? Really?”
“Well, we have one or two for you,” April said as Pepsi poured three mugs, “but you have school today, so we’re keeping it simple for now.”
“Gotcha,” Pepsi said as Grant handed Pepsi an envelope. She opened it and took out the card, and then looked down as the car keys fell out.
“What… Oh no, you didn’t…”
“Lord help us, we did,” Grant said, “look out of the window.”
Pepsi ran to the window and looked down at the small green car parked by the sidewalk.
“You ask permission to take it out, and you get your licence first,” April said, “but – well, happy birthday darling.”
“That’s FANTASTIC,” Pepsi said as she hugged them both.
“All right, get ready for school,” April said as she sipped her coffee.
“A car? You have your own car?”
“Oh yes,” Pepsi said as she and Ama sat in Caroline’s car, “under strict orders, but once I get that licence…”
“You keep learning from Jan,” Caroline said as she pulled over, and Erica came out of the apartment block. “Strap in – we’re running late because of the birthday girl here.”
“Well, Jack called – I had to talk to him…”
“Well, I think that concludes our main business. When does Natalya arrive Susan?”
“She arrives at JFK just after two,” Susan said as she checked her tablet.
“Good – have her brought straight here. Now, this evening?”
“George and I are working security at Monticello for April and Grant – a few of the girls are going to earn some overtime as well.”
“I think it is going to be quite a party.”
“Just in case of trouble some of the chaperones, and Doc will be carrying real guns today.” Dominique announced.
“And no one will notice?” Madame asked quizzically.
“When you look at the replicas most of them have got, it’s impossible to tell the real from the fake, so no they will be inconspicuous.”
“Did you plot an additional safety layer?”
“I did,” Dominique said as she spread a map of the club out on the table. “George will work an outer perimeter, and keep both gatecrashers, the local cops, and any trouble, hopefully well away from the party.”
“Are they serving…?”
“Alcohol, yes Madame…As Jan and Pepsi both reminded me, if they don’t the kids will just bring their own, at least this way our bar staff can keep it under control.”
“Underage drinking…the thrill of it.” Shirley closed her eyes. “It seems like only yesterday I was sneaking into pubs aged just 15.”
“Well at least I was 16.” Dom smiled.
They both looked at Susan, who said “Honestly? Fourteen, and beer only. Looking at Mum put me off the stronger stuff at the time.”
“Understandable – all right, thank you both. Dominique, please meet me and Natalya here at three to discuss her new position.”
“Yes, Madame,” Dom said as Madame stood up and left the room.
“Incoming transmission from Hong Kong, Madame – it’s Helen.”
“Indeed,” Shirley said as she looked at Susan, and then looked at the screen.
“Please forgive my intrusion Madame.” Helen said as she bowed slightly in front of the computer.
“Nonsense Helen,” Shirley said with a smile, “it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”
“Thank You Madame…” Helen hesitated, “This one was in receipt of a plan that Heather circulated.”
“I was too. An intriguing idea, but with difficulties.”
“Well Madame,” Helen said with her head bowed, “this one thinks she may be able to help.”
“As is widely known this one makes pyrotechnics and explosions her hobby.”
“The blowing up of those aircraft before the landing strip is completed may not be as difficult as Heather anticipated.”
“It might not? And Helen,” Shirley said as she shook her head, “I know the respect is ingrained into you, but you know me well enough to call me Shirley and not refer to yourself in the third person.”
“Thank you Shirley,” Helen visibly relaxed. “I happen to know a group of people here in Southern China who share my enthusiasm for making things go bang. As ethnic Chinese it will be a lot easier to infiltrate them into that security cordon then anyone else.”
“That is logical.”
“Most of them owe their allegiance to the Honoured Master, and knowing his distaste for this, I am sure he would approve the operation.”
“Alright - accepting their expertise you know this is a race against the clock Helen?”
“I was aware of that Shirley, but protocol demands consultation before action.”
“Well I’m attending a party tonight, and Heather will be there, give me 24 hours to consult everybody please, but put your team on immediate notice to travel.”
“I can do that.” Helen bowed again.
West Central Park
As Katy ran off from the table to get changed, Katherine handed Jan a mug of coffee and sat down.
“Penny for them?”
“Was I like that when I was her age?”
“No comment,” Katherine said as she sipped her coffee. “Besides, what happened to you when you were a little older…”
Jan merely nodded as she looked at her mother. “Don’t say it – I know what you mean.”
“She’s changed so much over the summer,” Katherine said quietly, “and I think it crept up on both of us. Are all her friends going tonight?”
“Yeah – I’m not sure how we’re going to work this, but I guess it’s time for that chat.”
“Want me to stick around?”
Jan nodded as she said “Katy, can you come in here please – we need to have a word about something.”
“Coming out Mom.”
Jan and Katherine watched as, slowly on her high stilettos, Katy wiggled her way into the sitting room.
“Well what do you think?” she said as she looked down at herself.
“What the hell?” Jan’s jaw dropped at the sight of her tween daughter in the sequined black evening gown, her boobs lifted to give her an impressive cleavage, her waist impossibly slim.
“Aunt Mary loaned me a corset.” Katy laughed at her mother’s reaction. “I think it really completes the outfit.”
Katherine was struck speechless, as Jan stared at her daughter. “Young lady,” she eventually said, “you are not going out looking like that, and that is my last word.”
“Mom, you approved all this…”
“But I didn’t know how it would look when it was all put together.”
“Pretty sexy Huh?” Katy grinned as she started to pull on her long black gloves.
“Honestly? Katy, you look like a walking wet dream.’
“Good!” Katy looked straight at her mother as the Irish tempers of both women started to brew. “The theme is Gangsters and Molls, and are you going to tell me this doesn’t fit the theme?”
“Katy Elizabeth Carter, I am telling you now to go and at least take the corset off.”
Jan stared hard at Katy, before she said “Well, I guess I did say yes – but watch your step young lady. I’ll be watching you.”
“Good,” Katy said as she removed her gloves, “I need to go and put some lipstick on now.”
As she walked off, Katherine shook her head. “I’m amazed you didn’t lay the law down firmly on her.”
“You didn’t on me – and I don’t want to make an enemy of her, Mom. Look – can you go and give her a hand so that she gets the makeup right?”
“Got it,” Katherine said as she walked off, and Jan picked up the phone.
“Heather, it’s Jan.”
“Oh hey – Sandy and George are just getting ready. How did it go with Katy?”
“I think I just made things worse Heather.” Jan groaned over the telephone.
“Oh boy – what happened? Does she look wrong?”
“Goddess no - she looks incredible, and I warned her she’s far too young for sex.”
“And, basically, she told me where to stick it.”
“Shit, you probably did just make it the forbidden fruit she won’t be able to resist trying.”
“All I can think of is we keep a close eye on her and George and intervene if needs be…”
“She will end up hating you Jan.”
“Better that then losing her virginity at just 12 Heather.”
“One day she will know I’m right.”
“Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Right – I need to supervise, and you need to set off. I’ll see you up there later – safe driving.”
“Yeah,” Jan said as she put the phone down, and then saw Katy come out with her grandmother. She had used a deep red lipstick and a lighter mascara, as well as some eyeliner.
“Right – let’s go to the car. Mom, I’ll call you later.”
“Have fun – and keep safe,” Katherine said as Katy went with her mother, before she sat down with a sigh.
“How are you doing, birthday girl,” Grant called out as he put his jacket on.
As he and April looked on, Pepsi slowly walked out of her room. She was wearing a red flapper style dress, held up by thin spaghetti straps over her shoulders that came half way down her thighs. It was made of silk, the layers rustling as she walked in on the four-inch heel shoes she had bought, a pair of black stockings completing the outfit.
“Do you think Jeannie will object that I stole her idea?” She patted her blonde hair, which had a red feather band around it, and posed in the classic style.
“Oh no – I think she’ll think you look wonderful,” April said as she put her hands to her mouth. “But if I am being honest, it’s not really her opinion that counts is it?”
“No – so do you think I look good?”
“Well, we both think you look wonderful,” Grant said, “but like your mom said, it’s not really our opinion that counts.”
Smiling, Pepsi said “I know – but he’s not here, is he?”
Pepsi slowly turned round to see Jack Fitzstuart standing in the doorway to her parent’s room, wearing a classic pinstripe suit with a black shirt and white tie, and a white fedora with a black hatband around it.
“Jack? Oh my god it really is you,” Pepsi squealed as she ran over and embraced him.
“Surprise – I wasn’t going to miss this party, but you need something to wear.”
Reaching into his jacket pocket, he took out a long case, and opened it to reveal a gold locket.
“Happy Birthday, Nikki,” he said as he fastened it round his neck, Pepsi grinning as she whispered “it’s wonderful – thank you.”
“Now then,” Jack said as he offered his arm, “your carriage awaits.”
“You’re not travelling with us,” April said as she put her coat on, “but we’re right behind you.”
“So what am I…?" Pepsi stopped at the apartment door as she saw Clint standing there, holding the door to a Rolls Royce Phantom.
“If the birthday girl and partner would like to get in…”
Monticello Motor Club
“Wow – looks as if there are quite a few already here,” Erica said as she looked out of the car window at the entrance to the club house. She could see some of the other girls going in, wearing flapper dresses or short sleeved blouses with wide collars, tight skirts and wide belts.
“All right,” Jess’ father said as he pulled up, “Have a good time, and call me when you’re ready to come home.”
“Thanks dad,” Jess said as she stepped out and looked round. She was wearing a round necked jumper with a blue scarf tied around the neck, a long skirt with a side split, stockings and high heels. Dawn was dressed in a red cheongsam, with a golden dragon motif, and dark red shoes, while Lynn had on a tight pinstripe jacket with a matching skirt, the collar of her blouse over the jacket collar. The hat she put on was tipped to cover her eye.
It was Erica who got out last, the mink coat covering her long black evening gown. The long black satin gloves over her hands were covered by the coat sleeves, but the diamante bracelets could be seen on her wrists, while she slowly walked in the patent black heels.
“All right,” she said as she looked round, “let’s go and have some fun.”
The four girls walked into the clubhouse, and smiled as they saw some of their friends dancing round.
They turned to see Ama standing there, wearing a blonde wig and dressed in a mustard coloured jumper and pleated skirt, the patterned scarf tied with the point over one shoulder. Alex was standing with her, wearing a suit with an open collared shirt, and carrying a fake Tommy gun.
“Bonnie and Clyde – very nice. Where’s your mom?”
“Talking to Janice Carter,” Alex said as he looked to the corner. It took them a moment to recognize Caroline in her long red wig, looking for all the world like Rita Heyworth in Gilda.
“Hey girls,” she said as she looked at them, “glad you could make it. Have a drink, mingle, dance – I’m told Pepsi is on her way.”
“Great,” Jess said as she looked round, and then gaped at Jeannie. She was wearing a red vest top and powder blur skirt, with a wide black leather belt and silk scarf round her neck, and carried a Thomson sub machine gun on her lap.
“Nice look,” Erica said as she removed her fur coat, to reveal the sleeveless dress underneath.
“Very classy,” Jeannie said with a smile as the huge form of House walked over.
“Winston, let me introduce Erica, Jess, Dawn and Lynn, some of this year’s freshmen. Girls, this is…”
“Winston Brewster – we went to see you when you played for your school.”
“Well, it’s a pleasure to see all of you,” House said. He was dressed as a detective from a forties movie, complete with badge on his jacket pocket.
“Hello Poppy,” Ama said as she walked over to join the young girl, “I am glad you were able to come.”
“Thanks,” Poppy said as she looked round. The young girl was wearing a gold flapper dress with long white gloves and a feather boa, a white father stuck in her gold headband. Her feet sat in a pair of gold heels. “Is Pepsi here yet?”
“I believe she is about to arrive,” Ama said as she saw Caroline listen to something, and then say “We have word that Pepsi is just arriving. Shall we go out to meet her?”
The crowd poured out of the double doors and lined the car park as the Phantom pulled up, Clint stepping out and opening the door as Pepsi and Jack got out. The cheers were deafening as she smiled and walked in, greeting as many as she could before they followed her in.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the DJ called out, “please welcome your Sweet Sixteen, Nicola Broadhurst!”
The cheers were amazing as Pepsi blushed, and then started to greet her guests.
“Poppy, thanks for coming,” she said as she hugged the young girl.
“Thanks for inviting me – I hope your friends are just as understanding.”
“Look – the secret is be yourself, not the Poppy they see at school. Do that, and you’ll be fine.”
“Nice outfit,” Jan said as she walked over, wearing a long coat and cloche hat, her hair under a black wig as she showed her dress.
“We all decided to be one of the great movie icons,” Caroline said, “and we’re living up to that. Have you seen Shirley?”
“I have,” Jan said, and then she saw Sandy and Heather arrive. Heather was wearing a silver evening dress with a white boa, her hair hidden under a platinum blonde wig, while Sandy was dressed in a fitted brown jacket and skirt, a red scarf round her neck and her hair hidden under a brown wig.
“Jean Harlow and Lauren Bacall?”
“Got it in one sister,” Sandy said as Little Sandy and George looked round, both wearing gangster suits, shirts and ties, and shoes.
The dancing was well underway when the two women walked in, wearing fitted matching skirts and jackets with a light tweed pattern, cloche hats and gloves with large cuffs. Two other things made them stand out – the silk scarves covering the lower faces, and the Tommy guns they held in the air.
“Okay reach for the sky ladies and gents this is a stickup!” the voice from behind the silk scarf mask giggled. “We are the Pussycats.”
For a second certain people reached for their guns till they realized it was a gag. The girls were standing there, covering everyone with their guns as they tried to suppress the laughter.
“Wow you girls look amazing!” Pepsi giggled as she walked over and pulled down Becca’s mask.
“Oh what gave us away?” Nikki laughed, as she too pulled the scarf down.
“Well other then the fact we all know your voices?”
“Then the fact that even period pussycats would not wear those classic A-line suits.” Pepsi shook her head. “Where…?”
“My Mom got them made up for us, and these cloche hats, and the gloves…”
“Wow!” Pepsi interrupted her friend.
“Those plaid tweeds are amazing,” Abby brought over drinks for the “bandits’.
“Aren’t they just?” Carina kissed the younger girls. “Full marks for research to you guys.”
“Wow, you really did it,” Doc said as she came over. The young blonde was wearing a gold sleeveless dress with a short skirt, and matching high heels.
“Yeah – and you look fantastic. But where is he?”
“On his way – or so he told me…”
They made a small group on their own – the six younger girls, three dressed as gangsters, three as molls.
“You all like children,” Shawnee said as she shook her head at her friends, dressed in their gangster outfits and flat heeled shoes.
“We look our age,” little Sandy glared angrily, “rather than something we’re not.” She looked her friends up and down from the tips of their very high stilettos to the tops of their styled hair.
“This is a sweet sixteen party,” Liz pointed out, “Everyone is older, if we want to dance, we have to look older.”
“We need to fit in.” Katy smiled as a boy checked her out.
“We wouldn’t want to dance with boys,” Laura looked at Cassie who nodded back.
“Well, we do,” Shawnee said, “and that’s what we’re going to do…”
“All right, you six,” Abby said as she walked over, “go and get a drink, and have some fun – and stop arguing amongst yourselves.”
The girls looked at each other and walked towards the bar, as Tonia walked over to where Carina was standing.
that smell?" Little Sandy asked.
"Perfume silly." Liz smiled.
"Boys love girls who smell nice." Shawnee added.
“Who are the three older girls in the evening gowns with the three children?” Tonia asked Carina.
“Oh,” Carina looked seriously, “that’s Katy and Little Sandy and their friends.”
“Really?” Tonia shook her head, “the three in the gowns, gloves and stilettos look so much older.”
“I know and I think that is what has Jan in a panic.” Carina nodded at the FBI agent.
“There’s certainly a good mix here,” April said as she looked round.
“So I know most of the girls are Angels, but where did all the boys come from?” asked Caroline.
“A lot of the girls brought their own boyfriends.” April looked round the room, “but we also got a couple of the boys who go to St Augustine’s to bring along some friends so we had a good balance.”
“Well it seems to be working.”
“Yes it does, and Pepsi is really enjoying herself.”
“That’s the main thing…” Caroline’s voice trailed off as Roy Razinski pulled her onto the dance floor.
“Be careful – she can fight back,” Grant shouted as he brought April a drink.
Letty looked at ‘her date’ closely. Tony had done well, Jason was almost as tall as she was, and at least Letty wasn’t having to stare down at a boy for once in her life.
“Tony tells me that you high jump?” he said as he handed her a glass of champagne.
“I do…are you into track and field?”
“I did a bit at Groton, but basketball is my sport really. I’m hoping to make the team, and at least to sit on the bench this year.”
“I play intramural basketball,” Letty said as she sipped her drink, “but I prefer high jumping.”
“I’d like to see you jump some time.”
“Well get Tony to bring you to the Indoors next year, I’m hoping I will win it this time.”
“Okay that sounds like a date…as long as we don’t have a game.”
“Yep, as long as you don’t, come watch me.” Letty smiled happily.
“Nice work Tony, you made Letty a very happy lady,” Abby said as she stood with Tony.
“Always glad to be of service,” he said as he kissed his girlfriend. “Have you talked to your mother?”
“I have – she’s having fun in Paris…”
“Yeah, it’s a great party,” Katy giggled as she stood with Shawnee and Liz, some of the boys looking at them.
“Hey – are you three enjoying yourselves?”
Little Sandy looked at Jo as she appeared with Curt.
“I think so – but I’m worried about Katy.”
“I can see why,” Curt said as he looked over.
“Has she been drinking?” Jan hissed at Heather.
“I’m not sure, with everyone drinking from champagne glasses…”
“I know,” Heather whispered back, “it’s not your fault, but I’m willing to bet she’s had at least two glasses of champagne.”
“And just look at the way some of the other young men are looking at her.” Jan said as she glanced round the room.
“Who is the hottie in the black sequined gown?” one of the St Augustine’s boys asked another.
“That’s my daughter…My TWELVE YEAR OLD daughter.” Jan interrupted.
“She’s only twelve…?”
“We really need to keep an eye on her,” Heather said as one of the boys took Katy onto the dance floor.
Poppy looked round to see Erica standing next to her.
“Hi – I like your outfit.”
“I like yours as well,” Erica said as she looked round the room. “Look, I wanted to say I’m glad Pepsi invited you.”
“I’m glad I could come,” Poppy said quietly as she held her glass.
“Champagne – I still can’t get used to drinking it.”
“It takes practice,” Poppy said with a giggle.
“Look,” Erica said quietly, “I don’t know why you think I don’t deserve to…”
“I do think you deserve to be at St Angela’s,” Poppy whispered, “but I need to keep a face at school. But I do want to say sorry that I upset you.”
“Apology accepted,” Erica said with a smile. “Faces aside, I don’t think you’re that bad Poppy.”
“Thanks,” Poppy said quietly, “now can you convince the others?”
“We could try together…”
“Isn’t that beautiful?” Letty smiled as Grant twirled Pepsi round the floor in a father/daughter dance.
“It is.” Abby sighed as she watched.
“So in the deb balls Abs who will be your ‘father’ so to speak.”
“Grandpapa…he says he is already practicing the dances.”
“You must introduce me to him when he next visits,” Letty said quietly.
“We’ll get you and your family round for dinner – talk to me later,” Abby said as both of them were pulled onto the dance floor.
“All right, who asked for Boney M,” Shirley said as she and John arrived, dressed as a couple from a Bogart film.
“Well, why not have Ma Baker,” Sandy said as she kissed both of them.
“I know, I know – but if the Gangsta Rap starts….”
“A problem Caroline?” Jan asked.
“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” Caroline said with a smile, “just a few kids out the back passing round a joint.”
“Well as long as its only pot, I guess we should be grateful.”
“George also caught some of the local boys trying to sneak in – he showed them the error of that idea in a very gentle way.”
“I am sure he did,” Jan said with a smile.
“Hey,” Adam said as he brought some drinks over, “all quiet on the security front?”
“So far, so good…”
“So enjoying yourself my love?” Jack whispered in Pepsi’s ear.
“I am, and all the more for you being here.”
“Is it the party you hoped for?”
“Now it is, and now hopefully my dream of what would happen after the party will also happen?”
“Was that an offer Miss Broadhurst?”
“You damn well know it was.” Pepsi narrowed her eyes and smiled. “I needed something big and hard for my birthday, and I’m hoping you got it for me?”
“It doesn’t seem possible that she’s the same girl who was oohing over the My Little Pony set I gave her for Christmas,” Adam shook his head as Katy danced by.
“I know,” Jan pouted, “she’s grown up far too quickly this year.”
“Well I think virtually every member of the male species has checked her out…And I know also every man in the place has checked you out Janet.”
“Well I feel hot as a smoking gun.” Jan rubbed herself up against her lover.
“Hmmm – I may have to make sure you fire smoothly later.”
“I cannot believe you came out with that line, Adam Ball,” Jan said with a smile.
“You set ‘em up, I shoot ‘em down lady…”
“Was I ever that bad?” Pepsi shook her head.
“Nic my love,” Jack said, “remember you lost your virginity giving me a threesome with one of your friends.”
“I know, but they are only 12 and 13.”
“You sound like an old lady.” Jack laughed, “but I take the point. That’s why Winston has been spreading the word that they are untouchables.”
“Good,” Pepsi said, “and I hope they listened.”
“It’s the girls that really need warning though. Whatever happened to the old idea that girls were chaste and pure, and it was the boys who were only after one thing.”
“It vanished when we realised we could enjoy sex as much as any man Jack.” Anna interrupted the conversation.
“Still no sign of Chet?”
“He’s somewhere between here and the airport.”
“Well till he arrives can I offer you a dance Anna?”
“You can Jack…and thank you.”
“May I have this dance with the birthday girl?” Roy asked.
“Why thank you sir,” Pepsi said as she went on with the stockbroker.
“Alex that is the worst Marlon Brando impression I ever heard.” April laughed, “But it’s so lovely you could make it.”
“Where are the presents?”
“Over there, we will be opening them soon.”
“Oh good, I think she’ll like this.” Alex patted the large box he was carrying. As he walked over and placed it on the table, a very flustered Chet van Roon came in through the doors.
“At last!” Anna stood hand on hips as Chet finally made his appearance.
“I know,” Chet said as he caught his breath, “I’m sorry, but my flight from Chicago was delayed.”
“Well I’ll forgive you if you…”
“Do this?” Chet kissed her deep red lips.
“Well,” Doc said with a blush, “that helps.”
“Finally little brother.” Blair looked at her brother, “I hope you didn’t forget a present?”
“No I have it in here,” he patted his tuxedo pocket, “It’s from me Mom and Dad.”
“Well you better go put it on the present table.” Doc reminded him.
“This is an amazing party,” Dawn said as she came from the dance floor, “and these boys are really cute.”
“Oh yes,” Jess purred as she looked at one of the St Augustine’s boys, “very cute indeed. Tempted?”
“My mother would kill me – and she knows how to use a machete. Tradition comes into this a lot with my family.”
“What about you Lynn?”
“Hmm? Oh – yes, yes, I guess you could say they are cute…”
“All right everyone,” Grant said into the microphone as he stood by the stage, “I want to say thank you to all of you for coming and making this such a special day for my little angel, Nicola.”
Pepsi blushed as the room clapped and cheered for her.
“Anyway,” Grant said, “I think it’s the time when we really get the chance to wish her a happy birthday – and I think to do that, we need to bring on some very special people.”
Pepsi looked to the stage as Elly-Mental came on stage, the room screaming as she said “I need the birthday girl up here.”
Doc, Nikki and Bobbi pushed Pepsi to the front of the stage as Winston and Jeannie watched with Ama.
“Hey – is that the birthday girl up there?”
“I knew you two could not miss a party,” Jo said as she hugged Ally and Nell. “How are you both?”
“Better since we found out we’re not under threat of death,” Nell said quietly, “Present table?”
“Over there,” Abby said as she pointed to the table piled with wrapped parcels.
“I’ll add to it,” Ally said as she walked over.
“All right, Pepsi,” Elly said as she looked round the room, “are you ready to officially be declared a sweet sixteen?”
Pepsi took the microphone and shouted out “Thank you all for coming – are you ready to PARTY?”
The cheer back made Elly smile as she started to sing, the crowd joining in as Pepsi started to dance on the stage.
“It was nice of those boys to talk to us,” Laura and Cassie said as they stood with Little Sandy.
“Yeah – but have you seen the others,” Sandy said as she looked at her other friends. “I’m really worried somebody may hurt them.”
“Why should you worry about them,” Cassie said.
“They’re our friends, still – we need to be there for them, no matter what.”
“That was fantastic,” Pepsi said as she hugged her parents. “How did you book her?”
“I think Jo put in a good word – come and open some of your presents.”
As they walked past, Pepsi looked onto the dance floor.
“I’m a 16 year old ‘wild child’ Mom,” she said quietly, “but I feel like I’m having to be a responsible adult when I see things like that.”
“That,” Pepsi pointed towards Shawnee in her tight red evening dress dancing close up to an older boy who obviously had no idea she had only just celebrated her 13th birthday.
“I know,” April looked hard; “the chaperones are earning their invites tonight.”
“Somewhere in there – and I can’t see George either…”
“Is that your gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” Katy drawled the classic line in George’s ear as they danced close.
“Katy we are too young…”
“Who got to you Georgie?” she breathed the words in his ear, “my mom, or Heather?”
“Heather,” George whispered as he looked at her, “but she’s right you know, we shouldn’t…”
“He says differently,” Katy purred as she surreptitiously felt the front of George’s suit, and then kissed him again.
“George you can kiss better than that.”
“I know, but…”
Katy eased her tongue into her boyfriends’ mouth as he relaxed. “Mmmm he likes that,” Katy laughed as she felt George get even harder.
“God – Katy, please, slow down…”
Katy pulled back and looked at him. “George - if you don’t want me, I’m sure I can find someone here who does?”
Katy glared at her boyfriend as he held her on her shoulders. “It’s not I don’t want to Katy…but damn it above everything it’s a crime to have sex with a girl as young as you.”
“God I can hear my mother in every word you say George Richmond.”
“Well your Mom is talking sense…we have all the time in the world Katy, you don’t need to lose it yet.”
“But I want to,” Katy smiled seductively, “And I know he wants it.” She used her black gloved hand to lower the zipper on George’s fly.
“NO!” George shouted; as he zipped himself up again. “I’m sorry, but no.”
“Fine, I’ll find another man to fuck me,” Katy stormed off. “A real man,” she yelled over her shoulder. “Not a little boy.”
George watched as Katy walked across the dance floor, and then sensed rather than saw the man mountain beside him.
“It’s small consolation,” Winston said quietly, “but you just did the right and brave thing.”
“Winston, I don’t want her to get hurt…”
“I know – find her mother and let her know.”
George nodded and made his way over to find Jan, as Winston looked for Katy.
“Katy is upset because she wants to have sex and I told her no.”
Jan looked at the young man, and then smiled as she said “Well thank the Goddess at least you have some sense George.”
“Well, she stormed off and said if I didn’t she’d find someone who would.”
“Oh crap George.”
“Did I do right…”
“You did entirely right George…Do you know where she is?”
“When I was walking over, I saw she was dancing with an older boy, and I didn’t like it one little bit. I think Winston was looking for her as well.”
“Well she’s still dancing with him, I can see her.” Janice paused. “Don’t worry George, I’ll watch her, you watch her, we will make sure nothing happens.”
“Thank you Aunt Jan.”
“Don’t promise what you can’t guarantee Jan,” Adam gave her another glass of champagne, “Katy is just as strong-willed and devious as you are.”
From the side of the room, Denice and Barbara were watching the party.
“Well,” Barbara said quietly, “how do we top this on Halloween Denice?”
“I don’t know Barbara, but to be better than this, it would need be the greatest party I ever went to.”
“Drinks girls?” John said as he brought champagne over in his 1920’s chauffeurs uniform.
“I was just asking how we top this at the party at our place on Halloween Dad?”
“With difficulty…But I have no doubt you will.”
“Did I hear from Susan, her Mum and Maeve are coming over for it?”
“So Susan’s mum wrote me?”
“Dad are you and…?”
“No,” John said with a smile, “she’s just a good friend.”
“Well you know it’s been a lot of years since Mum died, and she is still an attractive woman.”
“Barbara,” John said, “You are making your old Dad blush.”
“Now who is that dancing with Erica?” Denice asked.
“Simon Lodge, he’s Pussy’s nephew.” Barbara replied.
“He seems a nice boy.”
“Who Simon? He is a VERY nice boy, lovely manners and he can dance pretty well as well.”
“I can see,” Denice laughed at the expression on her daughters face as Simon dipped her.
“There are one or two boys here who you have to watch out for, but not Simon.”
“Well I’m glad he asked her to dance then.” Denice giggled again. “Though I think this shows me that Erica maybe needs a few dancing lessons.”
“Well let us show her how it is done?” John offered his hand to Denice.
“Enjoying the party?” Pepsi said as she found Katy.
“Apart from George being a wimp and a mummy’s boy, yes,” Katy said as she took another sip from her glass. “But I’m not worried – someone here will make me a woman if I ask them, and I’m going to find them.”
what?" Pepsi all but screamed at her little sister.
told you,” Katy said in a steady voice, “I'm going to let some guy have me
tonight, and it won't be George the Drip."
many glasses of champagne have you had Katy?" Pepsi asked accusingly.
"Enough, " the younger girl giggled.
Mom will kill you if you do anything stupid."
just how you lost yours Peps, so don't lecture me."
least I was 15."
"I think this is my dance Katy," Adam intervened slipping his arm round the young girls slender waist, "and its time you and I had a talk."
They made their way onto the dance floor as Adam took Kay’s hands.
eyebrow, he said "Whatever happened to Uncle Adam?"
I'm old enough to know when I'm ready for sex or not."
me sweetie,” Adam said quietly, “but you aren't."
look like I'm not old enough?"
take it from me you are Katy, you might think you are all grown up because boys
now look at you differently, but emotionally you aren't ready to be a woman
says? My Mom?"
"No - I
my mom have more sex then I thought was possible, even Gran had Guy at last
because others are having sex, it doesn't mean you need to."
"Katy that was more detail then I needed darling, but just because you have urges doesn't mean you need act on them"
you are Jewish, at what age does your religion say a boy becomes a man?"
that's a trap, you know that the Bar Mitzvah is just symbolic."
than a month I'll be 13, if a boy becomes a man at that age,
can't a girl become a woman?"
also an FBI agent and it’s breaking the law."
"I'll arrest the boy you do it with?"
Katy looked hard at Adam, and then said, “Thanks for the dance” and walked off swinging her hips with a provocative strut, Adam shaking his head as he re-joined Jan and grabbed a glass.
needed that!" Adam swigged his drink, "that jail bait daughter of
yours will try the patience of a prophet."
were only the latest to strike out with her darling" Jan stated seriously.
I was, even if we take her home right now, I'll not put odds on her not
"Unfortunately she inherits that from me."
“Everyone’s watching for her?”
Jan nodded slowly as she saw a St Augustines boy dance with Katy. “I just hope she calms down enough to see we’re right…”
“Wow – thanks Father Richmond,” Pepsi said as she looked at the bottles of wine Alex had given her.
“For your parents to keep safe for you, of course,” Alex said with a smile. “Perhaps for your twenty-first?”
“And the rest of your presents?”
“They’re amazing – Chet brought a wonderful set of pearls from his family, and some of the other gifts…”
“Well, you deserve every single one of them,” April said as she looked at them.
“Yeah – it’s a fantastic party mom, dad.”
“Do you mind if we borrow the birthday girl for a moment, April, Father?”
“Of course not,” she said as Ally and Nell dragged Pepsi into the middle of the dance floor, Jan and the other guests watching from around the sides.
“Nicola Broadhurst,” Ally said in a loud voice, “this – is your cake!”
Pepsi watched as a large pink cake was brought in, shaking her head as she said “Oh no – not a repeat of what you did at Shirley’s party…”
“How can it be – we’re outside the cake,” Nell said.
“And besides, Jack is out here with you, ready to protect you, aren’t you Jack?”
“That I am,” Jack said with a smile as he took Pepsi’s arm.
“Oh well, in that case…”
Which was the cue for Nessa and Paulie to burst out of the cake, as they started to sing Happy Birthday to Pepsi.
“Oh that is too funny,” Heather said as she rested her head on the shocked Sandy’s head.
“Is that your grandmother, Sandy?”
Sandy groaned as she said “yes it is…”
The three turned to see Shelley and Liz standing there.
“Look,” Liz said, “it’s fun to dance with the older boys, but we want to spend time with our friends as well. Is that okay with you?”
“Of course it is,” Sandy said as they hugged each other. “Where’s Katy?”
“Still dancing – I think she’s had a few drinks of the fizzy stuff.”
Sandy looked onto the dance floor where Katy was now dancing with two boys.
“Look – let’s all go and talk, I want to say something…”
Jess and Dawn turned round to see Poppy standing there with Ama.
“Oh,” Dawn said, “are you enjoying the party?”
“Yeah, I am,” Poppy said, “I feel like I can be myself here – which is why Ama said I should talk to you guys, like I talked to Erica lately.”
Looking at each other, Jess said “go on.”
“Look – I know I’ve acted like a queen bitch over the first few weeks of term.”
“Not going to argue with that,” Jess said quietly.
“I deserve that – but I want to stop been like that. When we had that – incident the other week, I swore I needed to stop being something I wasn’t. And I’m not a queen bitch, not really. So, I’m sorry.”
Dawn looked at Jess, before she said “Apology accepted. Now, see those three boys over there?”
“Let’s go and get them on the dance floor.”
“Nicely done,” Jo said to Ama as the three girls walked to the boys.
“I felt it was what was needed,” Ama said quietly as Alex came over.
“Hey – come on, we haven’t danced for at least ten minutes,” he said as he took Ama to the dance floor.
“Enjoying yourself Darling?” Denise asked Erica as they stood at the buffet.
“Oh Mom just so, SO MUCH!” Erica smiled broadly. “Is it snobbish, or geeky, of me to say that it’s the first party I’ve ever been to where I feel I can talk about things that I like and interest me, without people looking at me like I’m an alien?”
“No it’s not baby, It’s just a sign that you are meeting people who are not only interested in things you like, but in you as a person.”
“One thing is for sure though - I need to learn to dance properly.”
“I saw.” Denice laughed, “I think they do ballroom dance lessons at the community centre.”
“Well sign me up…PLEASE!”
“I saw the panic when Simon dipped you.”
Erica blushed, before whispering “he didn’t warn me he was going to do it.”
“He seems a very nice boy.”
“He is.” Erica paused, “he’s so polite compared to the boys I know back at home.”
“Well from what Barbara was saying his parents have made sure of that.”
“Did they, well I like it…Oh by the way I’ve seen you dancing a few times as well.”
“Yes,” Denice laughed again, “a lot of husbands and safely older men took pity on a single mom.”
“Hey both you and them seemed to be having fun.”
“Tell you a secret darling,” Denice whispered, “yes I’m enjoying this party almost as much as you are.”
“All right George – good work. Keep me posted,” Caroline said as she walked round the dance floor. As she approached the present table, she saw Grant looking at Pepsi’s gifts. Looking up and seeing her, he beckoned her over.
“Caroline do you know where I can buy a very good safe cheap?” Grant asked.
“Oh - why?”
“Because I’ve just been totting up in my head how much some of the jewellery my daughter has been give tonight is worth.”
“That’s a good point…Just leave it with me I’ll find you a safe and install a security system, but you maybe ought to have a word with Susan as well about an insurance policy.”
“Did I hear my name mentioned?”
“Hey,” Caroline said as Susan joined them, “I was just telling Grant he maybe needs a policy to cover Pepsi’s bling.”
“I can arrange a quote on that for sure.”
“Well I’ll install a security system.”
“How much will that cost me Caroline?”
“Nothing, I’ll do this one as a friend, not as a businesswoman.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive Grant…the fee will be one dance.”
“Oh I think I can afford that,” Grant smiled. “May I pay in advance?”
“Surely,” Caroline said as she followed Grant, and Shirley joined Susan.
“Indeed – Saints and Sinners rates?”
“Of course,” Shirley said, “and the full cover, including recovery protection.”
“Sandy,” George said as he joined the girls, “have you seen Katy anywhere?”
“I saw her dancing with some boys a few minutes ago,” Sandy said, “why – is she mad at you?”
“Yeah – for saying I wanted to wait. Where was she?”
Sandy looked round, and frowned. “She was there a minute ago. You go that way, I’ll go this.”
The siblings nodded as they went to try and find Katy.
“She can really do that?”
“I believe she can,” Shirley said as she stood with Heather. “And it has to be said, if you want something destroyed neatly and cleanly, with minimal damage, Helen is one of the most skilled in that area.”
“I’ve gotta admit, that would make it possible rather than probable. Let me liaise with Charlotte later, and I’ll get a message to Catherine after that.”
“I think it will prove invaluable,” Shirley said with a smile as she looked round.
“Heather, have you seen Katy anywhere?”
“No Jan,” Heather said, “why?”
“She was dancing with a boy, and then they must have wondered off.”
“Calm, Jan,” Shirley said, “we’ll spread the word and find her for you.”
“You sit with Shirley,” Heather said as she walked off.
“Jo – I need your help.”
“Of course big sis – what’s up?”
“Katy – have you seen her tonight?”
“Dressed for bear, and I’m sure she’s had more than enough alcohol to feel… Why are you asking?”
“We’ve been trying to keep an eye on her all night, in case she did something stupid.”
“Stupid as in… oh.
“Find her, Jo.”
“Well, if that’s the case, I need to ask the experts. Leave it with me.”
“I can’t believe how many presents I got,” Pepsi said as she sat with Doc, Jeannie, Nikki and Becca. “I mean, look at this bracelet – the way the light sparkles on it is amazing.”
bracelet from the twins and their parents?" asked Jeannie.
know that those are real diamonds...not crystal?"
think Jeans?" Pepsi looked closely at the bracelet on her wrist.
think. Do you think the Rochermann's are so cheap they don't give the real
"Will be just as real." Jeannie laughed as Pepsi reeled slightly from the news.
“Which would explain why Mom is talking to your parents,” Ama said as she joined them, “to ensure it is kept safe. Maisha, will you join us?”
“If you will allow me,” Maisha said as she sat down. “It is a truly excellent party, Pepsi – thank you for inviting me.”
“My pleasure,” Pepsi said as she saw Little Sandy and George looking round.
“You have news,” Shirley said as Heather and Sandy joined her and Jan.
got a text from Charlotte saying that Operation Big Bang is a go, that Blondie
will prep the ground for Helen's people."
good news Heather," Shirley smiled slightly. "I'm hoping that this
attack will be the straw that breaks the camels
we are all praying for that, and for us to liberate those poor workers."
Catherine to tell Helen it's go time."
"I will Madame,"
actual explosives?" asked Sandy.
"Our South African friends are arranging that."
“Excuse me gentlemen, may I borrow these two for a moment?”
“Wait there,” Ally said as she and Nell made their way to a quiet corner with Jo.
“Right – do not shout or say anything to upset people when I tell you this.”
“That sounds serious,” Ally said quietly.
“It’s Katy Carter – the little darling has grown up a lot this year.”
“We noticed,” Nell said as she looked at Ally.
“Well, she tried to get George to do something early, and like a gentleman he refused.”
“How old is she again?”
“Twelve, going on eighteen tonight. Point is, she stormed off, she’s been dancing with older boys all night, and now she’s gone off somewhere, possibly with a boy.”
“Oy,” Ally said as she looked round, “I get the picture.”
“Right – so imagine yourself at her age. Where would she go?”
“Find a quiet room off a corridor…”
“Under the stage…”
“Okay – let’s look there first. Meet back here in ten if she is not there.”
“Did you find her?”
“No,” George said as he met again with his sister, “and I’m worried. Look, did she…”
“She didn’t need to. Where have you looked?”
“Everywhere I could think of round here. You?”
“The same. Where on earth could she…”
They looked at each other, as George said “she wouldn’t?”
“Normally no, but…”
“Are you two all right?”
They turned to see Winston standing over them.
“Winston, we think we know where Katy is. Can you come with us?”
“We’ll tell you on the way…”
“Where are they going to,” Lynn said as she saw the three people walk out of the hall, the two younger children with the taller man.
“I’m not sure,” Poppy said, “aren’t they Sandy Richmond’s children?”
“Excuse me a minute,” Poppy said as she stood up and walked across the floor.
know I like young Letty an awful lot." Rachel
McNally said as she topped up Sandy's glass.
"I do as
well,” Sandy replied, “in a lot of ways she's very like Jo."
Sandy," Clare also took a top up, "she's not loud or demonstrative,
but day by day she's beginning to assert a quiet leadership."
the school we are very impressed with her." Annie added.
pity she's not really a prettier girl..."
know about that Aunt Rachel," Carina said as she collected some food,
"did you see the picture of her walking with Abby in that show?"
but I still think her body is far better than her face."
are you chatting about?" asked Tonia.
Sandy nodded towards the tall girl dancing with the young man from Cornell.
you want my opinion, she's one of the nicest girls I ever met...and I mean that
in the literal sense. She's not got a nasty bone in her body."
Pippa joined the conversation.
she gave my daughter a wonderful chat when she needed it. Poppy was very taken
just what I said," Clare smiled, "just like Jo, she's a quiet
"Does anyone know her mother very well?" asked Sandy, "I wonder if it’s time we started inviting her into the group?"
“How are you and Grace getting along, Pippa?”
“We’re mending old wounds – why?”
“Oh hello Poppy – what can I do for you?”
“I’m not sure – it’s just I saw your children leaving the party with a tall young man a few minutes ago.”
“Must be Winston – Jeannie was just asking where he was. Why would they leave the party as a group?”
“I heard them say they might know where Katy is – something about a garage?
Sandy looked at Poppy for a moment, before she said “Poppy, thank you for telling me that. Do you think you could do me a favour?”
“Of course, Mrs. Richmond.”
“Find Heather and ask her to meet me at the garage. She’ll understand.”
“Your mom really is a racing car driver?”
“That’s right,” Katy said as she turned the lights on in the garage. “She’s the Carter in the Richmond-Carter racing team.”
“Impressive,” the fifteen year old boy said as he looked at the shapely young girl. “So we’re not going to be disturbed here?”
“Mom doesn’t even know I have her keys to this place.” Katy leaned against the work bench, trying to focus on the young man as he walked over. “So, do you like what you see?”
“Of course I do,” he said, Kissing Katy on the lips and pressing himself against her as she felt his firm cock in his pants.
“Well then, what are you going to do about it?”
She let out a sigh as she felt his hands on her bottom, the two of them intertwining their tongues as they kissed.
“You really want this don’t you?”
“What do you think?”
“I think you’re gagging for it, you little bitch.”
Katy broke contact with him, and said “what did you call me?”
“You want me to fuck you, don’t you?”
Her head was swimming, and she was suddenly feeling very light headed, as she said, “yes… no…oh I’m not sure.” She watched her gloved hands as she unfastened the waistband of his trousers, and pulled the zip down, putting her hand on his crotch as he kissed her neck.
“Make your mind up,” the boy whispered as she felt his hands on her chest, gently massaging them as she slowly pulled his boxer shorts down. She tried to focus on the large organ, and took it in her gloved hand as he started lifting up the hem of her tight fitting gown. For a few moments she stroked his penis, until suddenly it bucked in her hand.
All at once the feeling of fear that ran through her as she felt the throbbing was overwhelming, and she suddenly heard herself saying, “No – please, this is a mistake, I don’t want you to…”
“Yes you do…”
“I think she said she didn’t want to.”
The boy turned round to see George standing in the door, his fists clenched and his eyes blazing as he walked into the garage.
“Oh – and you’re going to stop me?”
“If I have to yes – or you could do the right thing, respect her wishes, and walk away.”
“And if I say no?”
“Do yourself a favour,” Winston said as he walked in, “and don’t. Walk away, and forget this ever happened.”
The young boy looked at him, and then at George, as he pulled his pants up and tucked his shirt in, before walking out of the garage. As he left, Sandy came in, and said “Katy?”
The twelve year old looked at the three of them, and then suddenly bent over, as she was suddenly and rather violently sick.
“Sandy, can you get a bottle of water from the fridge,” Winston said quietly, the younger girl nodding as George found a folding chair and carried it over, setting it up as Katy looked up.
“Here – sit down and keep your head down,” he said quietly, taking Katy’s hand as Sandy brought the bottle over.
“It’s all right Katy,” Winston said quietly as he looked round, and found a roll of paper towels on the workbench. Walking over, he covered the mess with paper as Katy took the bottle of water and had a drink.
“How are you feeling,” George said as he held Katy’s hand.
“Awful,” Katy said quietly, “I’ve been a real bitch tonight George, Sandy – and I’m so so sorry.”
“Sip the water,” Winston said quietly, “and stay there until you feel as if you can stand up.”
He turned to see Sandy and Heather standing there.
“No – she’s been sick. I’ve covered the mess, but…”
“I’ll get the cleaning staff to deal with it,” Sandy said quietly. “Thank you for staying Winston – can you go and tell Janice where Katy is.”
“Here,” little Sandy said as she handed Katy a wet wipe, “clean yourself up, and then look at me.”
She waited until Katy had drunk some more water, and wiped her mouth, before saying “what’s mom going to say?”
“Nothing – if you tell her the truth,” Heather said as George helped Katy to stand up. “Right – feeling better?”
Katy nodded as Sandy took her other arm. “Come on,” she said, “let’s go back to the others.”
As Jan came in, she looked at Katy and said “are you all right?”
“I am mom – and you were right. Can we talk about it tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Jan said as the three of them walked out. Looking at Heather, she said “well?”
“Score one for the good guys,” she said as Sandy turned off the garage lights, and they locked the door before following them.
“You really seem to be enjoying yourself, darling,” Pippa said as she looked at her daughter.
“Yeah, I really am – it’s nice just to be myself rather than what people want me to be.”
“People? Anyone in particular?”
“Ah – yes, I can understand that,” Pippa said quietly. “I can really understand that. You do seem to be getting on with your classmates here though.”
“Yeah – I totally misjudged them.”
“So, what do you think we need to do?”
I might drop some of my other friends Mom." Poppy looked at her mother.
"Because these girls are more like the real me...I don't feel like I need be Queen Bitch with them."
“I know – and I’m glad,” Pippa said. “We’ve let others dictate who we are for too long, darling – time to be ourselves.”
“There you are,” Shawnee and Liz said as Katy came back, “are you all right?”
“Yeah – I went outside to get some fresh air,” she said as Jan pulled Winston to one side.
“George stopped anything happening – I just played peacekeeper,” the House said quietly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I owe Jeannie another dance.”
“Everything all right,” Jo said as she came over with Ally and Nell.
“Yeah – we’re good,” she said as the six youngsters went on the dance floor.
“So – what happened,” Shawnee said quietly.
“I almost went all the way – but…”
The girls looks at each other, and then at their friend.
“Oh it felt so good at first.” Katy stood looking shame faced at her friends. “I liked having a guy so hot for me he was willing to do most anything I said if I let him have me.”
“Well I can understand that,” Liz looked pleased, “a couple of guys tonight…well let me say I got made some offers”
“And me, but other then kissing…” Shawnee smoothed down her gown.
“You both did nothing.” Katy smiled.
“Well, I’m glad he didn’t – and I think you are as well,” Sandy said. “Just please, don’t grow up that fast.”
“I’m glad too – and feel free to call me out on it any time…”
The young girl turned round to see Jan standing behind her.
“I hear it was you who told Sandy and Heather where Katy had gone – thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Poppy said as Doc walked over.
“Can you come with us for a moment, Poppy,” she said with a smile, “we want to have a word with you and your mom.”
They walked over to join Heather and the other mothers, while Sandy was talking in her cell phone.
“All right,” Pippa said as she and Poppy stood with the rest of the sinners, “why was how I was getting on with Grace important?”
Heather looked round as Sandy said into her cell phone “thanks Grace – talk to you tomorrow.”
“Why do I feel as if I’m being hazed?”
“Not quite - Pippa I just rang Grace, and she agreed, we'd like to
extend an invitation to you and Poppy to join the sinners." Sandy
announced as the gang clapped.
Friday Afternoon Coffee Club," Heather reminded everyone.
I think that would be an honor...what do you think
join the swimming group?"
then,” Poppy said with a wide grin, “I'd like to be a sinner Mom."
Poppy wants it, then why not..." Pippa laughed.
one thing, no contacts Poppy," Abby spoke, "Sinners wear
"I know, and I'll happily start wearing mine, these damn lenses irritate my eyes anyway."
“How did you…”
“Don’t ask me, Pippa,” Pepsi said as she came to them, “they just know…”
“Hey there you lot,” she said as she looked at Katy and the other five girls, “have you enjoyed the party?”
“Very much so,” Shawnee said. “But my mum’s come to pck us up, so we’re going to say goodbye. Sandy and Katy are going to stay, if that’s all right.”
“Well, they have to come home with us, so that’s fine,” April said, “I’ll come out with you.”
“So, are you two all right,” Pepsi said as she looked at Sandy and Katy.
“We’re good – and I’m sorry,” Katy said.
“Come here,” Pepsi said as she took Katy to one side. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Yeah – I realize you were all right now,” she said quietly.
“Hey – can I have one last dance?”
“Of course you can,” Katy said as she took George by the hand and went out on the dance floor.
“They do make a nice couple.”
“They do at that,” Pepsi said as she looked at Winston, “and thanks.”
“For being the perfect gentleman,” she said as she hugged him.
“Hey – you’re acting like Katy’s big sister.”
“Well, I hate to see kids hurt,” Pepsi said with a smile.
Pepsi looked over from where she was dancing with Jack, and nodded as she took the microphone.
She looked out across the dance floor as she said “I just wanted to say thank you for making this an amazing night, and to say thank you for all the wonderful presents. Have you all had a great time?”
The room cheered and clapped as she said “Well, keep partying, and if I don’t get to see you before you go – don’t run into trouble with the boys in blue on the way home!”
“Three cheers for Pepsi,” Doc shouted, “Hip hip…”