We Are Gathered Here – Part 3








Saturday 10th December

The Waldorf Astoria

4.30 pm



“Well, you looked amazing up there.”


Sandra smiled as she and Maddie made their way to where Emma was standing with a tall gentleman, dressed in a tailored suit, pale blue shirt, and blue tie.


“Well, I am glad you said that,” she said as they shared a kiss, “and I see you found Emma as well.”


“We had an – interesting conversation over the meal, comparing Prince and Dylan to Mozart and Gilbert and Sullivan.  You must be Maddie – Stephen Court.”


“So, you’re the mysterious man who has conquered Sandy’s heart?”  Maddie looked him up and down, before she said, “have we met before?”


“Possibly in passing,” Stephen said with a smile, “So when do I get introduced to the bride and groom?”


“When they circulate round to us, I suspect,” Sandra said as she watched Shirley and John walking round.  “Come on – let’s get a drink…”




“Tatiana, darling – it is such a pleasure to see you again.”


“And you Diana,” the two women said as they kissed each other on the cheek.  “May I say, you look as if you are recovering fully.”


“I certainly hope so,” Diana said with a smile as they looked at Abby and Tony talking to Jo and Clint.  “So – wedding bells for your daughter?”


“Some way off, I think,” Diana said as she sipped her champagne.  “Do not get me wrong – they are very much in love, but both Abigail and Anthony are focused on their studies, as is Joanne when it comes to the relationship between her and Curtis.  But some day – yes I can see that.”


They both looked over to where Olga was standing with Kit, Eve and Liz.  “Your daughter is growing to be a beauty as well.”


“Indeed – both Yuri and I agree on that, and it is sadly one of the few things we do agree on.”


“Have you seen him?”


“Not here – he is being kept busy I suspect…”





Kay glanced to the doorway, and then said, “excuse me for a moment,” leaving Ray with Donald as she made her way into the lobby.


“Is there a problem,” she whispered to the blonde.


“I am not sure – I heard rumours that the proposed takeover of NorStar is off.”


Kay raised an eyebrow, as she said “it is?  Where did you hear this?”


“I’m watching at least one young model, in a room of models - rumours travel fast.”


Kay glanced round, and then said “I will see what I can pick up – be vigilant in the meantime.  Anything else?”


“Yes – have you seen my two old friends who are here?”


Kay nodded as she said, “I understand they know Shirley for some reason.”


“Indeed – but for what reason?”


“Let us hope you do not find out…”





“Congratulations, Mrs Hammond,” Juliette said as she kissed Shirley on the cheek.  “How do you feel?”


“As if I am on cloud ten,” Shirley said with a smile.  “I truly never believed this day would come. and yet, here we are.”


“Congratulations, my friend,” Klaus said as he shook John’s hand, “so where do you repair to from here.”


“Sorry – I don’t want anyone to know until we are on our way, and I trust Maisha to say nothing…”





“This is amazing,” Miley said as she and Laura stood with Aggie.  “When you and Dad marry, will the reception be at Ardray like for Sue and Colin?”


“Oh yes – Sheilagh and Tam insist on it,” Aggie said with a smile as she looked round, and then smiled again.  “Augie – I had the final decision from the TorWare board yesterday.”


“And your advice was invaluable on that,” Augie said with a smile, “so the family are here?”


“Indeed, they are…”




“Hello Brooke.”


As Brooke turned round, she was surprised to see Tom Morse standing behind her.


“Tom – how are you?”


“Glad the recess is coming up – next year is already going to prove a very different affair,” he said as he sat down, “but I want to know how you are?”


“Well, I seem to have got over…”


“Brooke, I know.”


She glanced round, before she whispered “how do you…”


“One or two of the sinners know – they’re forming a support bubble for you, and Clare is one of them.  I’m just glad you’re facing your demons and conquering them with any luck.


“That is all we can ask for,” Tom said as he squeezed her hand.  “Now us, on the other hand…”


“How is Bobbie?”


“Well- we’re going to spend Christmas with Simon’s parents, and then they are coming over for New Year…”





“Mamma, can we dance?”


“Soon Judith,” Carina said as she stood with her oldest daughter, “once Aunt Shirley and Uncle John have had a dance.”


Mags and Rudi were looking round the room as Annie and Ingrid held them, fascinated by the lights and the sounds.  The tinsel on the trees seemed to eb especially attracting their attention.


“They like the lights, Mommy.”


“They do seem to,” Annie said with a smile, “they do seem to…”




Yuri glanced into the room, smiling as he saw his daughter and wife there.  He wanted to see them, to talk to them, but…


“Mr Markov?”


“Madame La Marchesa,” Yuri said as he turned to see Francesca behind him.  “I trust the ceremony went well.”


“It did – did I understand your text correctly?”


“In terms of business yes – I am instructed to tell you that the takeover bid has been rescinded.”


“And your quote?”


“Ah – you must read into that what you will, Madame La Marchesa.  May I offer another quote from the Bard of Avon – one I find has been most motivational for me?”


“And that is?”


“By the pricking of my thumbs…”


“Something wicked this way comes.  Mister Markov, do you need to talk to anyone?”


“No – but perhaps you should,” Yuri said as he felt his phone vibrate, and looked at the message.  “I must go – stay safe and well.”


“And you,” Francesca said as Yuri walked off.




As she turned, Francesca saw Charlotte standing with Frances in her arms.


“Find Liz and Leader,” Francesca whispered quietly, “I am suddenly very fearful.”


“I can imagine – Karen is here as well…”




“Good afternoon, Ladies, Gentlemen, guests – we are Ladydown, not sure if any of you have heard of us?”


There were claps and cheers as Emma Cromwell smiled.  “Well, you may have seen there is a film about us that is coming out soon, and we have a greatest hits album released as well – plug over.  Today, however, it is our pleasure and privilege to be here to help celebrate John and Shirley’s wedding, and I want to invite them to come onto the dance floor now, to dance to their song.”


There was more applause as John led Shirley onto the floor and took her in his arms.


“Ready, Mrs Hammond?”


“Ready, Mr Hammond,” Shirley said with a smile as the Andi Morecambe started to play, Maddie smiling as she recognised the tune.


Close your eyes, give me your hand, darlin'
Do you feel my heart beating
Do you understand

Maddie led the applause as they started dancing, the others watching


Do you feel the same
Am I only dreaming
Is this burning an eternal flame?


“May I?”


“You may,” Maddie said as John Jacobs offered her his hand, Stephen taking Sandra onto the floor as Jack led Catriona on.


I believe it's meant to be, darlin'
I watch you when you are sleeping
You belong with me
Do you feel the same


“May I have this dance?”


“You may,” Ama said as Alex led her on, Maisha taking David Fitzstuart’s hand as they joined the others on the floor.


Am I only dreaming
Or is this burning an eternal flame?

Say my name
Sun shines through the rain
A whole life so lonely
And then come and ease the pain
I don't want to lose this feeling, oh


Klaus and Juliette joined Aggie and Donald on the floor, as others stood and watched.


Say my name
Sun shines through the rain
A whole life so lonely
And then come and ease the pain
I don't want to lose this feeling, oh

Close your eyes, give me your hand
Do you feel my heart beating
Do you understand
Do you feel the same
Am I only dreaming
Or is this burning an eternal flame

Close your eyes, give me your hand, darlin'
Do you feel my heart beating
Do you understand
Do you feel the same
Am I only dreaming
Is this burning an eternal flame

Close your eyes, give me your hand, darlin'
Do you feel my heart beating
Do you understand
Do you feel the same
Am I only dreaming, ah
An eternal flame

Close your eyes, give me your hand, darlin'
Do you feel my heart beating
Do you understand
Do you feel the same
Am I only dreaming, ah
Is this burning an eternal flame

Close your eyes, give me your hand, darlin'


As the band stopped, the room burst into applause as John kissed Shirley, and then led her to a side table as she sat down.


“I am so glad, that is out of the way,” she said with a smile, “now the others can have their fun.”


“So, I see,” John said as he handed her a glass of champagne, and they watched Carina dance with Judith, while Penny and Helen went onto the dance floor.


“She appears to be completely happy,” Cathy said as she stood with Missy.


“I believe she is,” Missy said with a smile, “I believe she is.”


“And you, Missy – how are you now?”


“Recovered – and glad Rhenia is doing such a good job of managing everything else,” Missy said with a smile.






The President watched on a closed-circuit camera as the dancing continued.


“When do you plan to implement the test, Sir,” his assistant said as he stood by his side.


“Not yet – Markov and Byushin are still in the hotel?”


“They are – Markov went for a walk into the lobby and spoke with the Marchesa di Cambrello.”


“On the NorStar bid?”


“We believe so, yes.”


He nodded as he said, “it would be – imprudent to do anything to disturb the happy couple before they leave.”




“Miss Shirley Xavier is not a woman to cross,” he said quietly, “as I well know.  No -once they have gone, we invite the target to join us.”





“So, these are the so-called Saints and Sinners,” Stephen said as he sat with Sandra, sipping from a glass.


“Indeed – a very diverse group,” Sandra said as she looked round.


“And if I was to ask who know Shirley professionally?”


“I would not answer – but you recognise some of her staff, I am sure.”


Stephen nodded, as he said “true – and it may not be a prudent thing to ask at any…  George?”


The bearded man stopped as he was about to walk past, and turned, smiling as he said “Stephen?  So, you are the mysterious other Sandra has fallen for?”


“Indeed – I heard you had settled here – George Sanders, right?”


“Indeed – I work for Caroline Jameson as her number two now, having retired from other things.”


“Well, it certainly seems to suit you,” Stephen said with a smile.  “I’ll pass on your good wishes.”


“Yeah, do that please,” George said with a nod as he started to walk round again.  Sandra looked at her partner as she said, “I am so glad you helped get him out.”


“Hey – despite what is written about him, he’s one of the good guys,” Stephen said with a smile.





“Doctor Lucia – I trust you are well?”


“I am Karen – and it is good, if a little worrying to see you again.”


“In what way,” the Umlimo said as she sat next to the doctor.


“Because when you appear, it is for moments of great importance,” Lucia said as she looked round.  “While this is a momentous occasion, is it the only reason you are here?”


“I go where I am needed,” Karen said with a smile, “but at the moment, I am – unsure.  Let us see what happens…”





“You’ve done an amazing job, Nessa – as you always do,” David McIlory said as he sat with his partner.


“Well, Shirley is a very close personal friend,” Nessa said with a smile, “so there was, forgive me, no way on this earth anyone else was going to do this for them.  And yes, I do think I have done an exceptional job today.”


“You have,” David said with a smile.  “So, you will spend Christmas with the family?”


“It is the only way to spend Christmas,” Nessa said with a smile.  “I’m also glad that you are going to be able to join us as well.”


“It’s my pleasure,” David said with a smile as he looked at the dance floor.  “Who is that dancing with your granddaughter?”


“Nick?  He is young Ama’s boyfriend.”


“Ah – and George?”


“Talking with his own girlfriend,” Nessa said as she looked at where he was sitting with Katy.  “Strange – it is not so long ago they were little children, teasing each other, and now they have become young adults almost overnight.”


“Time is the great leveller,” Nessa said with a smile.


“If we allow it to be.”





“Kylie, you have done an amazing job,” Doc said as she, Nikki and Pepsi stood with the young designer.


“I do think so, darlings,” Kylie said with a smile.


“You most certainly did, Kylie,” Ama said as she and Maisha came over.


“So where will you be staying while your parents are away, Maisha?”


“In the apartment – they are returning there form the honeymoon,” Maisha said with a smile, “we will spend Christmas and New Year here this year.  But Caroline and others will drop in every day.”


“So will we,” Kylie said with a smile.  “So – are you going to tell us where the happy couple are going?”






“Well now, if it isn’t Shirley Hammond,” Juliette said with a smile as the bride sat with her, Diana, and Sandy.


“I will get used to that – eventually,” Shirley said with a smile, “Diana, you look – happy?”


“Strangely, I am,” Diana said with a smile, “and it is a – very different feeling, I will freely confess.  So has John revealed any details of where you may be going?”


“Not a thing.  And I confess, the mystery is intriguing me.”  She looked over at John as he stood talking to Abby and Grace.  “With Penny looking after Maisha, however, I can be secure knowing she is safe.”  She then saw the look on the face of the other ladies, before she laughed and said “all right, you have a point there.  She is, however, looking forward to going to the lodges with her next weekend.”



“So,” Maddie said as she sipped from her glass, “both Shirley and I are hitched – who’s next?”


“Oh no,” Cat said as she shook her head, “not me.  What about you, Sandra?”


“It’s early days – and besides, Stephen and I have a professional connection as well.”


Cat raised an eyebrow as she looked at Maddie, who shook her head and said “don’t ask…”




Sharon smiled as she watched her brother and sister talking to some of the other children, and then looked at Olga as she sat at another table, laughing with Kit, Eve and Liz.  They were happy, but why did Sharon and George say it was important to keep an eye on her…


“Forgive me, but why are you paying so much attention to Olga Marakova?”


Sharon turned her head to see the tall blonde looking at her.  “Please, forgive me as well, but may I ask who is asking,” she said with a smile.


“Angela Gresham-Fox – I am a teacher at Benenden, and I am here to keep an eye on that little group over there.”


Sharon nodded as she said “Well, my boss asked me to keep an eye on all four of them – their parents are well known, and she had security concerns.”


“Your boss?”


“Caroline Jameson – you must be the escort sent to make sure Eve and the others kept out of trouble.”


Angela turned and looked at the tall blonde, nodding as she said “Jameson Security – of course.  Angela Gresham-Fox.  So, this lady is one of your staff?”


“Sharon Kennedy – my apologies if I stepped on your toes,” Sharon said with a smile.


“Not a problem, I am assured security is paying close attention,” Angela said as she walked off, Sharon raising an eyebrow as she looked at Caroline.  “Boss, is there something about her that makes you think twice?”


“Oh yes – and I think I know the people to talk to…”







As the door opened, he looked over to see Oleg Byushin walk in, waiting as his aides patted him down before the door was closed.


“Comrade President – everything is ready, and we begin on your word.”


He wiped his lips with a napkin, and then nodded as he said, “where is Marakov?”


“In his room – but we intercepted an invitation to him from Prince Klaus von Furstenheim, inviting him to join the celebrations downstairs.”


“Very well then – wait until the bride and groom have left, and then begin.”


Byushin nodded as he turned and left the room, the aide closing the door as he looked over.


“Be ready to instigate the test when he begins – we need to answer the question tonight.”




“So, another week and we are home?”


“Indeed,” Jo said as she sat with Carina.  “They are certainly getting bigger.”


“Good feeding,” Carina said as she looked at Mags and Rudi as Judith spoke to both of them.  “So, we come home and head for the lodges?”


“We do – with our latest members and one very special guest.”




“Indeed – it will be her first time on skies as well.”


“Well, that should be – entertaining…”


“Has Ju…”


“No – she’s being so busy with her book and Aunt Fiona’s, everything else has been put on hold…”




Yuri looked nervously round as he stood in the doorway, before Klaus came over, a broad smile on his face.


“Yuri – come in, have a drink.”


“Are you sure I am not intruding?”


“Of course not – John, Shirley, may I introduce Yuri Markov, an old friend from Paris.  Yuri, the bride and groom.”


“A pleasure,” Shirley said as he took her gloved hand and watched him kiss it, John raising an eyebrow as he looked at Klaus.  “I have heard your name – one of my business interests is a youth modelling agency with ties to NorStar.”


“Ah – then you will have heard the client I represent has withdrawn his offer to purchase the agency?”


“Indeed – I also know he is in this hotel.  He will not be joining us?”


“He is not invited,” Klaus said quietly, Shirley nodding as John said “Forgive us, but we need to take care of something.”


“Oh – and that is?”


John just smiled as he steered Shirley away, Nessa watching and then following them from the ballroom.







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