Whatever Happened to Diana?
Sunday 28th February 2016
The Huntingdown Lodges, Stowe.
said quietly, “I've never had the courage to ask this, but why is the only
consistent male escort I ever see you with my brother, who just happens to be a
Diana stopped and looked at Nessa, the other woman seeing the strange look in her face.
complicated to explain Nessa," Juliette suddenly went serious.
"You don't want to
go there Nessa." Alice looked similarly sombre.
"But I hear
rumours about your love life back in Paris..."
"That was before
things went bad." Sigi looked up.
can we change the subject?" Mandy spoke.
"But you weren't
always a man-hater?"
IT!" Sandy spoke quietly, but insistently.
Diana looked skywards, "most of you know anyway, and those of you who
don't probably should hear..."
"I still think
it's not right to talk about it." Alice looked up.
"Well maybe it's time I got it off my chest, because even those of you who were there only know half the truth." Diana sat down, her coffee mug in her hands, as she said “it’s funny really – we’re going back to the de Ros mansion for Abigail’s eighteenth, and in a way, that’s where all of this began...”
“Diana, if this is going to be too difficult...”
“No, no I need to do this,” Diana said with a smile. “As you know, I married Jacques in 1995, and we lived in New York for a couple of years after that. From the first day of our marriage, I knew Jacques was going to be – not the man I had expected to be my husband.”
“That’s an understatement,” Juliette said. “I remember the first time you invited me to dinner at your mansion...”
“Well,” Diana said, “I played the dutiful wife, and when he was posted back to Paris I followed him. Then Abigail was born – and the first time I saw any of you for eighteen months was her christening...”
Friday 19th February 1999
9 am CET
Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris
“Well, here I am,” Juliette said as she cleared customs and walked into the arrivals area. “I’m just glad Mom could look after Carina for a few days...” She was wearing a long coat over her jumper and pants, stroking her blonde hair back with her hand.
She turned and smiled as she saw Mandy and Will come after her. Mandy was wearing a black leather coat and high boots, while Will wore a duster over a pair of brown pants and boots.
“Hey you two,” Juliette said with a smile, “How’s the kids?”
“With the doting grandparents,” Mandy said, “Carina?”
“Ditto. So we get a weekend to be...”
“Juliette? Is that really you?”
The trio turned to see a young woman walk behind them. She looked no older than 15, but as Juliette said “Sigi,” she smiled at the sight of her friend.
“Sigrid, darling,” Mandy said as she hugged and kissed her, “how are Klaus and Renate?”
“Well,” Sigi said, and then she saw the look in Juliette’s face. “I’m sorry – I know it still hurts Juliette.”
“I heard they have a daughter?”
Sigi nodded as Mandy said “Ah – our ride.”
They saw the liveried chauffer, and walked towards him with their cases...
The ash blonde looked up as the new arrivals came into the hotel bar, and smiled as she waved them over.
“Alice darling,” Mandy said as they embraced and kissed each other on the cheek, “how are you?”
“I can’t complain – we signed the lease for the first store before Duncan and I came over.”
“So APCO is going to become a reality?”
“I hate that acronym you know, why not just call it McKinnon?”
“Doesn’t sound the same does it,” Juliette said as she sat down. “You remember Sigi, Alice?”
“Of course I do – I heard a rumour you were going to Sydney next year?”
“Unfounded, but you never know,” Sigi said with a smile as Duncan came in with Will.
“Hey there,” Duncan said as he kissed Mandy and Juliette, “you’re both looking well. Ju, I heard a rumour about you – starting your own business?”
“Yeah – let’s see what happens with that. So, when are we going to see Diana?”
“I had a message saying she was going to join us for lunch,” Juliette said. “I really hope she does – I haven’t heard that much from her since she moved back, apart from the photos of Abigail.”
“Before she gets here,” Mandy said, “I ran into Vicky James the other day?”
Juliette looked at her old friend as she said “how is she?”
“She’s good – she married Archie Gordon, and she lives near our Scottish estate. Her first daughter has started walking.”
“Well, I’m glad she’s fine,” Alice said, “I never really heard what happened?”
Juliette kept quiet – she had heard the story, after Diana had left for Paris. It was the first thing that had made her worried – and then the fact her dearest friend had not written that often in the last eighteen months.
“So how is Carina,” Alice asked.
“Walking, talking, and making mischief,” Juliette said with a laugh as she took some pictures out and handed them round.
“Oh now that is cute,” Alice said as she looked at the picture of the young girl.
“Hello my friends.”
“Diana?” Juliette turned her head, and then stood up, looking at her old friend. It was Diana all right - but not the Diana she knew. Her blonde hair was pulled back, and she wore a simple white blouse with a grey jacket and skirt, and sensible shoes.
“Diana, darling,” Mandy said as she got up, walked over and embraced her, and then looked at her. “What has happened to you? Where is the divine Abigail?”
“She is with Miss Kendall,” Diana said quietly, “well, shall we sit down?”
Sigi looked hard at Diana, before she said “are you all right?”
“I am fine,” Diana said quietly, “what shall we eat?”
Juliette looked at her friend, wondering what had happened to her. She still looked stunning, but there was a look in her eyes, a look of resignation, and maybe a little fear. Glancing over at Sigi, she could see the same concern in her friend’s face.
“I’m really sorry Cari was unable to come,” Juliette said, “but she is recovering from measles, and my mother insisted she stay.”
“I understand,” Diana said as she ordered her food, “so tell me what has been happening in New York.”
The conversation turned to events in the lives of the others, as sadly Diana thought back to the good times in Paris. Then she had been young, carefree, and on the verge of becoming a famous model. Now she was 10 kilos overweight, getting fatter, and keenly aware that maybe she was the only woman she currently knew who her husband was NOT bedding. Shooting pictures of HIS face on her pistol range was her one and only real outlet to vent her anger.
But she was a du Grechy by birth, and a de Ros now, and she was determined not to show the pain she felt as she replied to the questions asked of her. Her mind flashed back to when she had seen Jacques at the breakfast table that morning.
She had passed Valeria in the hallway before coming to the breakfast table, and had heard her enthuse of the gift Jacques had given her. A gift she recognised, but she held her temper, knowing that Valeria would simply ignore it.
Instead, she stormed into the dining room, as Natasha looked over from the food table. The fourteen year old smiled – she liked Diana – and sat down as Diana stood in front of her husband.
"Why did you tell
your mother, that set of Ferrand's Portraits de Noblesse Russe was a gift from
you?" Diana looked blazingly at her husband.
"Well it was...” Jacques de Ros wiped his mouth, put his
napkin on the table, and looked at his wife.
“You gave them to me...and I gave them to her."
"They were a peace
offering from me, Jacques!"
"Well who does it
matter, who she thinks gave them?"
"It makes all the
difference...I spent months putting that set together."
"Well I appreciate
your efforts,” he said as he stood up, “and Mama thinks I am a wonderful
"Jacques, that was
not good of you," Natasha shook her head. "Diana worked very hard
finding each of the 6 volumes."
"Don't worry, Natasha,” Diana said as she looked over, “I am sort of getting used to this."
“Good,” Jacques said as he put the palm of his hand on her cheek, “I would hate to think I needed to teach you another lesson.”
Diana paled as the door opened, and the nanny brought Abigail in. The young baby giggled as Miss Kendall came over, and gave her to Diana.
“You sit down and give her the bottle,” Natasha said, “I will fetch you some food.”
“And where are you going, husband,” Diana said as Jacques walked to the door.
“Business – I will see you tonight.”
The women watched as he walked out, before Diana sat down.
“Let me take her and give her her milk, Madame,” the nanny said, Diana nodding as Natasha fetched her some food.
“My brother is wrong to do this to you, Diana.”
“I know – but he is my husband,” she said quietly.
“Oh – forgive me,” Diana said as she looked up, “you were saying Alice?”
As the friends ate, at the reception desk a blonde haired woman was signing the visitor’s slip.
“What brings you to Rosville, Miss Hargraves?”
“Oh a holiday,” the woman said as she handed the slip over, “I always wanted to visit France, but this is the first chance I have had.”
“Well, the porter will show you to your room,” the woman said as the young man went to take her cases.
“No,” she said quietly as he went to pick up a black case, “I will carry that.”
“I saw the pictures of Alexandra in the latest Vogue,” Diana said as she looked at Juliette. “She looks as if she will make it as a model as well.”
“I don’t think so – her heart really isn’t in it,” Juliette said, “and when did you start calling Sandy by her full name? You know she hates it.”
“It seemed the right thing to do.” Even as she said this, Diana shivered – she was beginning to sound like her...
Valeria looked up from the latest issue of Paris Match, "your father's
philandering makes me ashamed that I have to acknowledge the connection
"Oh what did he do
"He was on stage
dancing at that cheap American singer’s concert in Paris last weekend..."
"Oh was that
Valeria glared at her daughter-in-law, "he was there as her 'personal
guest', and we all know of course just what that means."
"It probably means nothing, Mama Valeria," Diana sighed yet again.
“I despair of him,” Valeria said sternly...
“Come on Diana, there must be some fun in your life.”
“Of course there is,” Diana said, “I have Abigail.”
“So has Valeria started to talk of a second child? A son?”
Diana said nothing, but sought to change the subject.
“Terry has invited us all to Outremont to go see her ‘future queen’ as she puts it.” She said, changing the subject as she smiled.
“And so many of us all with small children, darlings.” Mandy drawled.
“Well in your case two already…” Diana finally smiled as she said “do you and Will do it constantly?”
“Pretty much…” Mandy replied with a smile. “It’s why his father has suggested he takes up a hobby.”
“Well my father suggested pig breeding to him darling,” Mandy smiled as her friends laughed at the joke.
“And you Sigi?” Diana asked.
“I am officially off men till I finish my law studies.”
“So the rumours concerning you and a certain prominent Frankfurt banker’s son in the German gutter press?”
“Are just that…rumours.” Sigi said with a glint in her eye.
“Turning to a more serious topic…” Diana sipped her wine, and said “How is Charity?”
“She’s getting there Diana.” Alice paused for a second, “but she’s still trying to find young Caroline.”
“Am I the only one who thinks it is odd the way she disappeared after ‘his’ murder?” Diana asked.
“No…Charity thinks that just maybe Caroline had something to do with it. We can only pray she is safe, wherever she is.”
“Well, after what he did to Stella, would any of us say she was unjustified?” Juliette nodded.
“Not me for sure.” Alice spoke again. “Well anyway more news on Charity, she’s been accepted to Boston University’s medical school.”
“Oh GOOD FOR HER,” Diana smiled happily.
“I know – it’s a real boost for her.” Looking at Mandy, Alice said “talking of people who have disappeared...”
“Will and I saw her uncle at his father’s seventy fifth birthday party – nothing.”
Diana nodded as she thought of all the people she had missed. She had heard of Stella passing away, but they had not let her go to the funeral. And Grace – she had disappeared soon after that as well. All she could do was hope she was happy.
“So I heard a rumour you were doing some writing now, Ju?”
Juliette nodded as she wiped her chin. “It’s true – I met Mary Thomas at a show. Did you know she’d joined up with Anna Mitchell at the US edition of Complete Style?”
“I had heard that,” Diana said, “I had the good fortune to meet Fiona McKenzie on a recent trip to London, and she told me. She also told me she was the Fashion Editor for the UK edition. Mary has become their Style Editor, hasn’t she?”
“Yeah,” Juliette said, “they’ve already started calling her storeroom Merlin’s Cave.”
Diana was glad she was smiling. This was the happiest she had felt for so long...
'lost' colleagues,” Alice said, “has anyone spoken to the Love Bandit?"
Mandy sipped her wine
before she said "She's still mouldering down in Cornwall darling."
"I'd hardly call
having two children mouldering Tufty?" Juliette smiled.
"Well let me just
put it this way...” Mandy sat back as
she said “she remains cut off from her friends."
"After the way
Mary basically told her that her career was over like that, I will be honest I
do not blame her." Diana spoke with a sad tone.
"Do you regret
walking away from modelling Countess?"
Diana looked wistful.
"Well on a happier note has anyone seen Nefertiti working on television?" asked Alice.
“Oh yes,” Juliette said, “she’s taking to it like a duck to water. Her interview with Tyra, and that idea of a reality show she mentioned...”
“So the christening is on Sunday morning?”
“That is right,” Diana said quietly, “my family arrive tomorrow.”
“Will your mother be here?”
“I am afraid not – she sent a beautiful shawl, but Jacques insists we use the de Ros family one.”
“Di, seriously,” Juliette said quietly, “is everything all right?”
“Of course,” Diana said with a smile, “why would it not be?”
Chateau de Ros
“Diana? How was lunch?”
Natasha looked at her sister in law as she came in, the small smile as she said “it was fun – I have invited them to join us for lunch after the christening.”
“Good – are you sure you are all right?”
“Of course – forgive me Natasha I must...”
“Of course,” Natasha said as Diana hurried up to their suite, and walked in, putting her bag down and taking her jacket off before she went into her boudoir. Looking at herself in the mirror, she sat slowly down on the seat, and then buried her head on her hands as the tears started to come.
How had it come to this? How had she become this shadow of her former self, afraid to say what was really happening, what had really taken place.
How could she possibly
even tell Juliette that her bastard of a husband had actually installed one of
his mistresses in what had once been THEIR happy home, that beloved apartment
in which they had both so enjoyed themselves.
No... No, she would continue to cry in private, she had made her own bed, now she had to lie in it, and it wasn't as though she had not been aware that upper-class French men frequently conducted infidelities, It wasn't as though her own father was a saint.
It was just the way her husband flaunted it all in her face, and the beatings when she dared raise her voice in protest.
More huge sobs came from her as she sat there in her little private bathroom, the one place she knew she could lock herself in totally and cry her worries away.
Outside the door, Natasha could hear the crying, but felt she could do nothing. Jacques was very unkind to her, but he was her older brother. Even so, the teenager knew this was wrong.
She placed the white envelope on the bed, and walked out, closing the door quietly behind herself.
Diana finally looked up, standing and washing her face. Inside she envied Mandy and Alice for their happy marriages. Why had life worked so well for them? and not for her and Juliette. She regretted in a way that Sigi was here, as much as she loved her, for her presence had to remind Juliette of losing Klaus, and the discovery of her pregnancy, the way she had changed. The others might not notice, but to Diana it was obvious how tough inside Juliette now was, how all her charming innocence had been stripped away from her by events.
But then, she had changed as well, hadn’t she? And she did not like how she had changed in many ways. But one thing of beauty had come from it.
Abigail – her daughter. She knew Jacques and Valeria had wanted a son to carry on the family name, but she had fallen in love with Abigail the moment she had set eyes on her. She had to be strong to protect her as well.
Wiping her face, she walked out of the bathroom, and saw the envelope on the bed. Lifting it, she looked at the address, and then opened it.
“Mon dieu,” she said quietly to herself, before she put the envelope in the drawer of her bureau and locked it. She would have to visit Paris soon, and hear for herself...
Saturday 20th February 1999
Edith Hargraves sat in the restaurant, slowly drinking her coffee as she looked round the tables. This was a trip she had wanted to take for nearly two years, but her duties had not allowed her to do that. Now, however, she had completed her tour, received her discharge, and now Gunnery Sergeant Hargraves was not in combats.
Oh, she sought war, sought justice, but she did it as a middle aged tourist from New York. Her tours in the Gulf and in Bosnia had made her hard, but after what had happened to Coleen, there was only one goal in her mind.
She looked over to where the group of six were sitting. She recognised the tall blonde – Juliette Huntingdown, model, mother. The others were unknown to her, but she knew Juliette as a friend of her. One of the people she would visit.
So when a tall, well dressed man came into the restaurant, accompanied by two younger men, she finished her coffee and left some money, before slipping quietly out. There would be time later...
“My my, is this Juliette Huntingdown I see before me?”
Juliette stood up and smiled as she said “Guy – you look disgustingly well.”
“Of course I am,” Guy, Duc du Grechy said as he kissed her on both cheeks. “And I see you have other friends as well. Will my boy – how is your father?”
“As well as can be expected Your Grace,” Will said as he shook hands. “You remember Mandy of course.”
“Of course I do – as well as Alice and Duncan, but Sigrid? How you have grown?”
“Not really, but thank you,” Sigi said with a smile. “And these are?”
“Ah of course – you do not know my sons. Alain, Roger, these are old friends of your sister.”
“Is Guillemme not joining you?”
“Alas no – he is with our mother this weekend, and has examinations to study for,” the older of the two sons said. He was the image of Guy, while Alain was thin, blonde haired, and smiled as he greeted the others.
“Have you seen Diana, Juliette?”
“We had lunch with her yesterday Guy,” Juliette said. “She has – changed.”
“Yes – yes she has,” Alain said quietly. “We hope to see her this afternoon, but here – not there.”
“Why not at the chateau?”
“I do not think Valeria will tolerate my company more than is absolutely necessary,” Guy said with a shrug of his shoulders.
“And as for him...”
Juliette looked at Alain, before saying “you never really liked him, did you Alain?”
“I think that is a slight understatement. It is more a case of he did not like who I was.”
“He has a natural prejudice against art restorers?”
Alain grinned and said “I suspect as much. So what will you be doing today?”
“Relaxing, and enjoying the time off,” Sigi said. “We will see you tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Guy said with a bow as they walked out.
“Thank you Father,” Diana said as she stood in the entrance to the chapel, “I look forward to seeing you with everyone else tomorrow.”
“As do I,” the priest said as Diana walked down the path and onto the main road.
“Ah there she is, the flower of our family!”
“Hello Papa,” Diana said as she saw Guy approaching, “how are you?”
“I am content and well – Alain and Roger await our pleasure, but I wanted to walk with you first.”
“Of course,” Diana said as she walked down the road.
“So how is my granddaughter?”
“Growing, and smiling. Miss Kendall is proving as good and kind a nanny to her as she was to me.”
Guy looked carefully at his daughter, before he said “and Jacques? Is he treating you well?”
“My husband looks after me and Abigail.”
“That is not what I asked, Diana – is he treating you well?”
Diana stopped and looked at her father. “How Jacques treats me,” she eventually said, “is not the real issue, papa. The issue is I married him.”
“Against my strong reservations. Please, Diana, do not tell me those reservations were justified?”
“What makes you think that, Papa?”
“Alain told me of the incident.”
Diana stopped and stared into the distance for a few moments.
“The best thing you can do for me tomorrow, Papa, is to say nothing. Let us be a family for Abigail tomorrow. After that, we will see.”
Guy nodded as they walked along, not noticing Edith as she watched from a roadside cafe. She had heard enough to know one thing for certain.
The wife was not to blame.
Sunday 21st February
Chateau de Ros
Diana sat at her dresser, carefully applying her makeup, trying to cover the bruising on her cheek, the dark marks under her eyes. Satisfied once they were covered, she stood up and put on the long sleeved blouse, the white silk covering the bruises on her upper arms. She had dared suggest Jacques stay on the Sunday night, and not return to Paris – and this had been the result.
The knee length skirt and jacket, in coral pink, the natural hose, the white heels. All went on, all checked for their fit, and then she put on her earrings, the pearls Jacques had insisted she wore.
How could she show her defiance, her right to be heard? She looked at the shawl her mother had sent, and then held it in her hands as she made her way to the nursery.
“Good morning,” Miss Kendall said as she looked over from dressing Abigail.
“It is cold outside,” Diana said quietly, “I want you to wrap Abigail in two shawls – this one, then the one my husband has said. You understand what I ask, Miss Kendall?”
The older woman nodded as she took the shawl, Diana stroking her daughter’s cheek. “I swear you will be happy, little one,” she whispered as she turned and left the room.
“What was it like for Diana’s wedding,” Sigi said as she sat with Juliette in the hotel lobby.
“It rained – heavily – all day. Diana smiled – probably the last time I really saw her smile properly.”
“Diana’s wedding day?”
Juliette nodded as Mandy came in with Alice. All four women were wearing coat dresses, with large hats, their leather gloves in their hands.
“Well, at least the sun is shining today – have the cars been booked for going to the Chateau afterwards?”
“I have taken care of that on behalf of all of us, my dear.”
“Thank you Guy,” Juliette said, “that was very kind of you.”
“I want nothing so mundane to detract from my granddaughter’s big day,” Guy said with a smile. “I want her to enjoy this most special day with her family and her friends.”
"What are those Pelican?" Alice asked as she saw the photographs on Juliette’s hands.
"Oh these? Future blackmail material Bats," Juliette laughed.
"Some pictures I had taken last year of Carina and David darling." Mandy smiled as she said “It is never too early to prepare for the day they may be needed.”
“Oh yes – you should see the ones of Mandy,” Will said, “and as for mine...”
"Oh...” Alice smiled as she said “Can I see?"
"Yes, of course
you can Bats." Juliette passed her the print, as Alice looked at the two
babies on the rug, naked as nature intended.
"Oh you are
right," Alice giggled, "nude pictures yet."
"Did I hear
someone mention nude photos," a Dublin accented voice spoke.
Eve!...You made it."
"Only just in time Mandy darling," Eve Stone said as she kissed Mandy on the cheek. “We had to deal with some business first.”
“Oh? Anything interesting?”
“Not really Will me bhoy,” Stephen said with a smile.
“Ah good – you are ready as well,” Guy said. “We must be on our way to the church – it is time.”
As Juliette looked on, she could not help but smile as Diana and Jacques stood at the font, little Abigail in her mother’s arms, wrapped up against the cold. As the priest blessed the little girl, he said “Abigail Michelle Sophia, I baptise you in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit...”
Abigail giggled as the water went on her head, making Diana smile, but Jacques seemed to frown. The priest handed the young baby back to Diana, as the service continued.
As they made their way out, Juliette and the other women gathered around, looking at Abigail and talking to each other.
“She looks so like you,” Eve said as she tickled Abigail’s chin.
“She does, I pray daily for her happiness,” Diana whispered as Natasha walked over.
“We must be on our way, Diana,” she said quietly, “Jacques is waiting.”
“Of course – I will see you all at the chateau,” Diana said as she carried Abigail to the waiting car.
“Do you see the way she is walking,” Eve whispered to Juliette. “Has she hurt herself?”
Juliette glanced over at Guy, who was also watching, before he noticed her look. “Ladies, Gentlemen,” he said with a smile, “our cars are over here.”
Chateau de Ros
As they got out of the cars, the guests were shown to the main doors of Chateau de Ros, to be greeted inside by Jacques, Diana, Valeria and Guy. Natasha and Miss Kendall stood were Abigail was lying in her bassinette, accepting gifts and placing them on a table before the guests were shown into the main dining room.
Miss Kendall was dressed in her black dress coat, while Natasha wore a simple white blouse and pleated skirt.
As Alain and Roger came in, Alain looked at Jacques, and nodded stiffly before he kissed Diana on both cheeks. “Thank you for inviting me,” he said into her ear, before he bowed formally to Valeria, and shook his father’s hand.
The arrival of the next guests, however, sent a set of whispers around those in the hallway as they walked in, the man tall, handsome and wearing a Saville Row suit, the woman tall and proud in her cream coat dress.
Majesties." Diana bobbed down.
Highnesses." Valeria went down into a deep curtsey.
"Oh enough formality Aunt Valeria." King Rudolf smiled. He kissed her on both cheeks as Queen Therese hugged Diana.
“How are you,” Terry said with a smile as she held Diana’s arms, not noticing her wince.
“The better for seeing
you Terry – please, make your way through.”
"I was sorry to
hear of your father’s death Rudi, and so disappointed I couldn't make the
funeral." Guy bowed slightly.
"I understand Guy, and yes you were a long way away on the beaches of Tahiti."
“Alas – but if I could have, I would have been there. I understand Michelle was able to attend however?”
“She was, and it was good to see her as well,” Rudi said with a smile.
“Diana, darling, may we start with the photographs?”
“Of course Jack,” Diana said as she saw Jack Linklater waiting, smartly dressed in a blue suit and wide collared shirt, a blue cravat tied round his neck. “Who do you wish to have first?”
“Mother and Baby I think – shall we repair to the drawing room? I have some chairs set up there.”
Diana nodded as she came over and lifted Abigail from the bassinette, Jacques following and noticing the two shawls as he did so.
The guests gathered on the stairs behind the du Grechy and de Ros families, Jacques and Diana standing in the middle as she held Abigail, the young baby looking round.
"Alright can I get
everyone into the shot please?" Jack Linklater spoke as he fussed and
moved people round.
Jacques smiled – a
fixed, unloving smile, as he whispered from the corner of his mouth "Why
did you ask that disgusting little American queer to take the photos?"
Jacques," Diana gritted her teeth, "Jack is not only a close friend,
but he is also a great photographer."
said quietly, “we will have further words about him later."
"Oh dear God," Diana quaked inwardly, she knew just the pain 'further words' would mean.
“And everyone say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”
Jack took the photos, and then said “thank you everyone.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Valeria said, “food and drink is available in the dining hall.”
Guy bowed before he took Valeria’s arm and escorted her to the room, Jacques and Diana following.
“Jack, may I have a quick word,” Juliette said as she took the photographer to one side.
“For the umpteenth time, Juliette darling, I will not give you the negatives...”
“Jack, this is serious,” Juliette said, “how does Diana look to you?”
Jack looked at her, and said “she has put on some weight, but she still is a beautiful woman.”
“That is not what I meant.”
Jack looked carefully at Juliette, before he said “I do not believe she is happy, and I fear he is not the husband she wanted.”
“I agree,” Juliette said as memories of her own experience came back – and she realised where she had seen the look in Diana’s eyes before. “Jack, keep an eye on her while you are here, will you?”
The photographer nodded as they went in, and joined the guests mingling around.
Will noticed Natasha looking lonely, and made his way over to where she was standing at the side.
"So what are your
She smiled as she said "I
would one day like to be the French Ambassador to Washington Lord
"That is indeed
aiming high,” he said with a smile, “and please call me Will."
"Well I might not
get that high, but I would very much like to enter the Foreign Ministry."
"That is a very
worthwhile career path,” Will said as he sipped his champagne, “and do you see
yourself getting married and having children yourself?"
not," the young woman looked down at herself, "I don't think boys
find me at all attractive."
"Well I think you are stunningly beautiful," Will smiled, whilst reflecting that her mother seemed deliberately making the girl look as plain as possible.
“Perhaps,” Natasha said, “but I must honour mamma and my brother, true?”
“If they wish the best for you, then yes...”
As he walked round, Jack noticed a familiar face at one side. He noticed Diana talking happily to the other models, and Jacques looking at her, his eyes flaming, before he walked over.
"It has been a
while Your Highness." Jack smiled at Sigi as he handed her a glass.
Sigi grinned. "You know I still have those pictures of me posing in fur at
the Paris apartment?"
"Really?” Jack sipped from his glass as he said “I'm
just glad your family has never found out about them."
"So am I,"
Sigi's grin turned to giggles, "you know despite my looks I'm over 18 now,
would you like to try taking some..."
"No, I think I'll
safely leave that kind of picture to Stephen."
"Ah yes...Stephen Stone," Sigi looked thoughtful, "I must ask to be introduced to him."
“Well, I’d be happy to introduce you,” Jack said with a smile. “Did you ever tell them about the other incident?”
“No – have you ever told anyone?”
Jack shook his head as he looked at Juliette. “How is Klaus?”
“Happy – in his way,” Sigi said quietly. “He and Renate are a good couple, and they have Ingrid now, but I know he regrets the way he hurt Juliette. But my father, and Aunt Natalya...”
“Say no more,” Jack said quietly, “family can be their own worst enemies. Look at Diana for example...”
“I know – Jack, do you think something is happening? Something Bad?”
Jack nodded slowly as he said “but what can we do, little one? What can we do?”
“Father,” Roger and Alain said as they approached Guy, “we see you are being the diplomat today.”
“In what way, my boys?”
“In the way you are talking to Valeria,” Alain said, “but we note you are as cold with Jacques as us.”
“Indeed,” Guy said, “I have the unfortunate feeling we will need to be there for Diana soon, my sons. Be prepared...”
"Your friend Brian
came to see us in Dublin Juliette."
"He did Eve?"
Juliette felt the anger rising inside, after the events of the previous
year. "What about? I thought you'd
given up on acting?"
"I have,” Eve
said, “but it was Cassandra he wanted to see."
"I heard she had
been doing some acting."
"She is truly
good.” Eve smiled as she said “These
small roles she's been playing at the Abbey Theatre have attracted her amazing
"Well I'm happy
for her...” Juliette looked round as she
said “I know I'm no actress really."
"But you do look
beautiful on screen Juliette." Stephen joined the conversation. "When
are we going to do these pictures eh?"
"Get Missy to
schedule me." Juliette laughed.
"Well anyway your
Brian has invited Cassie to Hollywood at Easter to read for a small part in his
"And can't you see the pride in my wife's eyes?" Stephen smiled at Eve.
“I can – I hope she makes a success of it,” Juliette said as Diana came over.
“I know you have to go soon,” Diana said, “but may I come and see you in the hotel tomorrow before you return to the airport?”
“Of course – and you must come and see us again soon,” Juliette said with a smile.
“I hope to, I really hope to,” Diana said with a smile.
Sunday 28th February
Diana took a moment to catch her breath and take a drink from her mug, as the other women looked on.
“That afternoon was one of the happiest of my time in France with Jacques,” she said quietly, “and in a very real way, all of you been there lifted me out of my depression.
“For a little while – because that night...”
“Diana,” Nessa said, “I’m sorry. If you want to stop...”
“No,” Diana said quietly, “Alice, Sigi, Mandy, Juliette, Eve – they all saw the aftermath, but what they do not know is what happened after you had all gone...”
Sunday 21st February 1999
Chateau de Ros
9 pm CET
Diana closed the door to the bedroom, sitting down as she slipped her shoes off. Abigail was asleep, and Miss Kendall was sitting in the nursery. Valeria and Natasha were downstairs, and she thought she was safe. Jacques had gone somewhere, and she had a few minutes peace to herself...
“There you are.”
She looked up as the door opened, and Jacques came in, obviously drunk. A shiver ran down her spine as she whispered “Jacques please...”
The back of his hand across her face knocked her onto the bed, as Diana cried out. She was powerless to stop him as he rolled her onto her stomach, and pulled her blouse off, the buttons breaking under her as he yanked her arms behind her back.
Diana knew what was coming, as she felt him grab a pair of her stockings that were on the floor, and use them to bind her wrists tightly together, the thin silk band biting into her wrists.
“Keep quiet you little cunt, you queer lover,” Jacques growled as he pulled the legs between her wrists and tied it off, then pulled her hair, forcing her head back as he stuffed the gusset of a second pair of hose into her mouth, then tied the legs round her head, the band digging into her cheeks as he did so.
“mmnnddeeeehlpppmmmm,” Diana said as Jacques pulled her blouse off, the silk ripping, and then removed her bra, the tears falling from her eyes and soaking the bed cover as Jacques pulled her off the bed, throwing her on the floor.
“I told you I would show you how unhappy I was,” he said a she pulled her skirt and panties off, as well as her stockings, and then used them to bind her ankles and legs together, “and I always keep my promises, you stupid little cunt. You know that don’t you?”
“Please God,” Diana said to herself as she looked into his hate filled eyes, “help me now, let this end, take him away from me, save me...”
But there was no answer to her pleas, as he stood up, leaving her naked on the floor as he removed his belt.
“God above, save me, I plead with you,” she thought, and then she screamed into her gag as he brought the heavy leather belt down on her back, making her shake as he brought it down again and again.
“FATHER GOD WHERE ARE YOU,” she screamed in her mind as she sobbed, feeling the pain increase as each stroke came down, feeling the burning with each stroke. Where was her salvation, where was her answer?
This went on for what seemed like an eternity, as Diana tried to get away from the blows, but each time she moved he followed, the belt falling on her back, her bottom, her legs. She continued to pray, but there was no answer – only her muffled cries, her tears, the pain, the strap...
“I told you I would show you unhappy I was,” Jacques eventually said as he threw the belt to one side, and rolled her over with her foot, “but I want you to remember this. I saw the second shawl – the one that slut of a mother of yours sent. I told you only to use ours, didn’t I?”
Diana felt his foot as it connected with her crotch, and nodded as she screamed in pain.
“Well, this will help you to remember,”
Diana’s eyes opened wide as she saw him pick up a wooden rod, and walk over to her. She shook her head violently, screaming “jcccknnnnpllssgddnnnnnnnn”
She felt him thrust it into her passage, felt her flesh and muscle tearing, as he thrust it in and out, felt the rod as her body started to respond despite itself. There was no love in his eyes, only pure hatred as he thrust it in again and again and again.
And as he did so, Diana heard no answer to her prayers. Instead, she heard something else as her body shook – a female voice, as clear as day, saying “he cannot help you – you need to trust to me, and to your sex.”
“Who are you,” she said in her mind.
“I am the Goddess,” she said, “put your trust in me, and I will show you not only how strong you are, but how to hurt the men who hurt you.”
And as she felt the rod penetrate her womb, Diana gave herself totally to this new deity – her body shaking as she had an orgasm, and Jacques threw the rod away in disgust.
“You sicken me,” he snarled before he left the room. Diana had stopped crying, as she looked to the door. She knew God was not there, but the Goddess was, and she would help her.
“Forgive me Madame, but – oh my god...”
She looked to the door as Miss Kendall came in, and mumbled “hlpmmmm...”
“Do you wish me to fetch the Countess?”
Diana shook her head as the nanny knelt down and removed the gag. “Cut me loose, and then drive me to the hospital,” she whispered, “and then I need you to take a message to the hotel. Ask Natasha to watch Abigail – and say nothing to the Countess.”
Monday 22nd February 1999
9 am CET
“Diana! What happened?”
Diana looked to the door of her room as Juliette stood there, her face pale as she looked at her old friend.
“Juliette – please, come in and close the door.”
Coming into the room, Juliette said quietly “did Jacques do this to you?”
Nodding, Diana began to quietly sob as she said “you do not know the things I have had to endure, the suffering, the pain...”
Sitting down, Juliette put her hand on her friends. “Mandy and the others are outside, but if you want them to go away...”
“No,” Diana said quietly, “I need my friends to be with me, but I do not want them to know everything that happened.”
“What about Abigail?”
“Miss Kendall,” Diana said as she groaned, “she knows what happened, and she will not leave Abigail alone from this moment on, with any of them.”
“Surely you do not suspect Natasha or Valeria of...”
“Natasha, no. But Valeria... Juliette, she knows what happened to Victoria in New York.
“What REALLY happened.”
“Goddess,” Juliette said quietly, and then she saw Diana smile.
“You as well?
Juliette nodded as she gripped Diana’s hand. “We need to get you out of there, and as far away from him as possible.”
“No, my old friend, we need to do more than that. We need to destroy him for what he has done. Invite the girls in – I need to speak to them, and then I need to speak to my father and brothers.”
Juliette nodded as she stood up and walked over, opening the door as Mandy, Alice and Eve came in with Sigi.
“Diana darling,” Mandy said when she came in, “what happened?”
“I... I have been hurt. How is not important, for now,” Diana said as she slowly sat up, “what is important is that I can count on you, my friends, at the moment.”
“Of course you can,” Sigi said quietly, “what do you want us to do?”
“For now, just be there for me,” Diana said quietly, “I will be discharged later, and Miss Kendall will come and collect me. At some point soon, however, I may need your help in other ways – please, if I ask, do that for me?”
“Anything,” Alice said, “but who did this to you?”
“Who... Who do you think?”
The women looked at each other – they knew, and they also knew what that meant.
“I and Abigail will be safe until the time comes,” Diana said, “but I need you, Mandy, to take a message to Will and to my father and brothers, along with Juliette.”
“Of course – what is it...”
“He did WHAT?”
Will and Guy stood up as Juliette and Mandy passed on the message, Roger and Alain looking at each other.
“He attacked Diana – she’s badly beaten up, but she is unhurt.”
“The nanny is watching her,” Juliette said, “she is safe.”
“I will kill him,” Alain said quietly, “he must not be allowed to get away with it again.”
“A discussion for another time, my dearest Amanda,” Guy said as he looked at Will. “What does Diana want us to do?”
“Two things,” Mandy said. “First, Jacques is to be blackballed in every way possible. She says you Will, and you Guy, will know what that means.”
“We will help with that,” Roger said, “and the second thing.”
“Guy, we need the apartment in Paris back. She is going to be spending a couple of weeks there soon, before we go and see Rudi and Terry. There is currently a – friend of Jacque’s resident there.”
“It will be vacated by the weekend – leave it to me. And Diana?”
“She has to tread a careful path,” Juliette said, “but I think she can do it, with our help. For now, let her handle it her way.”
From the other side of the room, Edith watched the conversation. She had only heard a little – but it was enough. The bastard had done something to his wife – she may have a new ally...
“Leave it with us,” Guy said, “William?”
“We have to be on the way back to Paris tonight – Juliette?”
“I’m going to fly back tomorrow,” Juliette said. “Eve is going to talk to her brother as well.”
The men folk nodded as they went out.
“Pelican, should we let Mother know?”
“No – not yet. Let’s see how things pan out...”
Mandy nodded. “I know she is not a member of PTA as such, but this – we can make an exception...”
“I know,” Juliette said quietly, “but she needs to recover herself first. In all the years we’ve known her, I’ve never seen her like this.
Diana looked over as there was a knock on her door, and thought for a moment before she said “come in.”
As the door opened, she saw a blonde haired woman walk in, dressed in an army style jumper and pants, closing the door quietly behind her.
“Forgive the intrusion, Madame,” she said with an American accent, “but I wanted to introduce myself to you. I mean you no harm – I can see you have already had more than enough.”
Diana looked at the woman, before she said “who are you?”
“My name is Edith Hargraves – I’m Coleen Hargraves’ sister.”
Diana pushed herself up as she looked at the woman. “I... I can only apologize...”
“No,” Edith said quietly, “you have no need to apologize. You played no part in what happened to her, and by the looks of things, he could have hurt you as badly as she hurt her.”
“How is she?”
“She lives, in a way – but she will never leave the chair, and she will require help all her life. Forgive me, Madame, but I have to tell you I came here to make him pay.”
“Pay, as in...”
Edith nodded as Diana looked at her. “I have been staying in the same hotel as your friends, and I have been listening. When I heard them talk of what had happened, I felt I had to come and introduce myself.”
“And now that you have – what is your intention?”
“I was going to ask you the same question, Madame.”
Looking closely at her, Diana finally said “When do you intend to return to the US?”
“I need to go at the end of the week,” Edith said.
“Then you can be of help to me in two ways. First, we must ensure that your sister wants for nothing – allow me to take responsibility for that. It is the least that I can do.”
“I cannot ask that...”
“You are not asking,” Diana said quietly, “I am insisting. I have funds of my own. But after that, I would ask you to return in a few weeks. I think you can be of service to me Edith.”
“In what way, Madame?”
“As my bodyguard – I need protection, and something tells me you have the skills to do that. If we are to see him pay, we must help each other. Agreed?”
Edith nodded as she looked on. “And your daughter?”
“Trust me – she will never be hurt as I have been...”
Sunday 28th February
“So Edith has been your bodyguard as well as your housekeeper?”
“At first,” Diana said, “to protect me from him. As it was, when I returned to the Chateau he had flown to Geneva. To this day, I have no idea if Valeria knows what really happened to me – she knew I had been injured, and that was all. But just how badly I had been hurt I did not know for a few weeks.
“I did hear the shunning of Jacques socially had begun, and a few weeks later Miss Kendall and I took Abigail to Paris for a visit. The apartment had not only been vacated – when we arrived, Papa was waiting...”
Friday 26th March 1999
Rue de Grenelle, Paris
“Good afternoon Countess,” the concierge said as Diana carried Abigail into the lobby, Miss Kendall following. “The Duc is waiting in the apartment.”
“Thank you,” Diana said as she walked to the elevator. Her dress was loose fitting, as Abigail giggled in her arms.
Guy opened the door and said “welcome” as they walked in, Miss Kendall putting the cases down. Diana looked round, before saying “you have redecorated papa.”
“I felt it was necessary, to remove all traces,” Guy said quietly. “The locks have also been changed – I have three sets of keys, as requested.” Looking at Diana, he said “have you lost weight, Diana?”
“I felt it was time I regained my former body,” she said with a smile, “but thank you for noticing.”
“We have placed the cot and other baby equipment in the largest of the bedrooms, while your room is over there Miss Kendall.”
“Would you take Abigail and give her a feed, Miss Kendall,” Diana said quietly as she handed the young girl over, “I need to have a word with my father.”
“Of course,” the nanny said as she took Abigail to the bedroom.
“And the third room?”
“I have taken the liberty of hiring some domestic help,” Diana said as there was a knock on the door. Walking over, she opened it and stood to one side as Edith came in, wheeling a case with her.
“Edith comes highly recommended. Edith, my father, Guy, Duc du Grechy.”
“Your grace,” Edith said as she gave a small curtsey.
“Good for you,” Guy said quietly, “it will be good for you to have help in the apartment as well.” Looking at his watch, he said “I must go now. I will see you for dinner tonight at the Ritz?”
“I will be there at eight – and thank you again Papa,” Diana said as she kissed her father on both cheeks, and showed him out.
“I have come as requested Madame,” Edith said as she removed her coat. “Thank you again for what you have arranged for my sister – she is comfortable and has all she needs.”
“Good,” Diana said as Miss Kendall came in, carrying Abigail. “May I introduce Miss Kendall, Abigail’s nanny, and of course my darling daughter. This is Edith – she will be our housekeeper.”
The two women nodded at each other as Diana looked out of the window, remembering the times men would climb down the vines.
Something that would not happen again.
“Shall I prepare lunch for all of us Madame?”
“Yes, Edith – and then Miss Kendall and I will take Abigail for a walk. Do you have all you need?”
“I believe so Madame. Perhaps Miss Kendall can assist me, and we can discuss arrangements for our own dinner.”
“I would be honoured,” the nanny said as Diana took Abigail and sat down, looking at the baby girl in her pink dress.
“I pray you never know,” she said quietly as she tickled her tummy.
“So what do you think of Paris, Edith,” Miss Kendall said as she sat at the table with her later that night. Abigail was sleeping in her cot, and Diana was out.
“A beautiful city,” Edith said, “one I never thought I would see.”
“Is this your first time in the city?”
“Apart from passing through, yes. I have been elsewhere in Europe, but never here.” Drinking from her glass, she said “I know Madame likes to be formal, but when we are alone?”
“Suzie,” she said with a smile.
“How long have you known her?”
“All her life – I was her nanny, and when Abigail was born she persuaded me to come out of retirement.”
“What was she like as a child?”
“Happy, carefree – you have never met the Duchess du Grechy, but she is a strikingly beautiful woman like Diana. She is an actress, and ensured Diana was schooled to be more than the child of the Duc de Grechy.”
“He strikes me as a loving father.”
“He is, but he is a French noble. This means he takes certain latitudes – but he loves his family, and even the Duchess in a way.”
“I take it you do not particularly like the Count de Ros?”
Suzie put her glass down and thought for a moment. “As a Nanny, you are trained to care for the children, and respect the wishes of their parents. All I will say is I am glad I was there for the Countess de Ros when she needed me – and I am glad to be here for her now.”
Edith nodded. “We both wish to protect her then.”
“Indeed,” Suzie said as she heard Abigail stirring. “Time to be the nanny again.”
“I’ll wash up,” Edith said as she collected the plates.
Monday 29th March 1999
The offices of Dr Arnaud
Diana sat quietly in the office, looking round the ornate oak panelling and rubbing her bare arms as she did so. She was wearing a peach sleeveless dress, light hose and white heels, her jacket hanging on a rack, and she was nervous. She had spent the morning been examined by her old family doctor, and undergoing various tests, and now she was waiting impatiently for the results.
Opening her purse, she took out her diary and looked through it. She had an appointment the next morning with an old friend, but she knew she had to know the results of today before she could proceed any further.
The door to the office opened, and she stood up as the grey haired man came in. He was wearing a grey suit, with a black waistcoat, and a black bow tie sat under the collar of his white shirt.
“Diana,” he said as he came in, “have a seat please.”
“Thank you Dr Arnaud,” she said as she sat herself down, watching as he sat on the opposite side of the large desk and looked at her through his horn rimmed glasses.
“Okay,” he said quietly as he put a file on his desk, “first, let me say it is good to see you again, even under these circumstances. I still remember you as the girl in pigtails getting her measles shots.”
“That seems a lifetime ago,” Diana said quietly.
“I can imagine. Let me ask a question before I begin, and I completely understand if you do not wish to answer this, but...”
“Yes, I was. Yes, I know who did it. No, I am not going to name them – this is a family matter now.”
“Ah, a family matter,” Dr Arnaud said quietly. “Well, I have reviewed the results of the tests and my own examination, as well as the notes from your stay at Rosville Infirmary.” Taking off his glasses, he rubbed his eyes before saying “Diana, there is no easy way to say this.”
“Then say it Doctor – I have complete respect for your medical expertise.”
Taking a deep breath, Dr Arnaud leaned forward and said “I’m sorry Diana – the damage is extensive, and the scans confirm my initial thoughts. You will never be able to have another child.”
Diana sat quietly for a moment, taking the time to think over what her doctor was saying. “Will there ever be a chance,” she eventually said.
“I cannot say never,” Dr Arnaud said with a sad smile, “but I must be honest and realistic with you, my dear. You understand, don’t you?”
Nodding, Diana said “I do understand, Doctor, and I thank you for your honesty. Will I need further treatment?”
“At this stage, no,” he said, “but I do believe you should have regular examinations. Just in case.”
Nodding, Diana stood up. “I am not sure how long I will be in Paris, Dr Arnaud, but for now I wish this to be confidential between us. Let me know when we next need to meet, and I will make sure I am here. How often?”
“Come and see me in six months – we will decide from there. Will you be all right, Diana?”
“I have a child I love,” Diana said as she put her jacket on, and picked up her purse. “There is where my love must and will be focused. Doctor, thank you again.”
“Stay well, Diana,” Dr Arnaud said as they shook hands, and Diana walked slowly out. As she left the building, she saw Mandy sitting in a roadside cafe opposite.
“Thanks for coming over,” Diana said as she sat next to her, “I... Well, I could use a friendly face right about now.”
“It was bad news then.”
Diana nodded silently as the waiter poured wine into the glass.
“If there is anything I can do darling?”
“No, not in that way – you and Will have already done more than enough. Let us eat lunch, and talk of the get-together soon.”
Rue de Grenelle
As she came into the apartment, Diana saw Edith come from the front room.
“You have a visitor Madame,” she said quietly. “I do not know her, but Miss Kendall vouched for her. She sat with Abigail for a while, before Miss Kendall took her for her walk.”
“I trust you gave her coffee.”
“She did – she is a most courteous housekeeper, Diana darling.”
Diana smiled as she looked at Edith. “It is all right Edith – I have no problem with her,” she said as she walked in, removing her jacket. The woman was in her late fifties, and looked as much of a beauty as she had in her heyday. Her classic black dress and jacket, the pearls, the smile on her face – all made Diana feel happy to see her.
“Mama – this is an unexpected pleasure,” she said as she embraced her mother.
“Your father called and suggested I dropped in,” Michelle, Duchess de Grechy said, “he was concerned about you – and now I see you, I understand why. How are you?”
“Edith, would you fetch some more coffee,” Diana said, the housekeeper nodding as she headed to the kitchen. Sitting down, she said “I am getting better Mama. How much did Papa tell you?”
“Enough,” Michelle said quietly as she put her hand on her daughter’s own. “I am sorry you had to go through that, my child. No woman should go through that.”
“Sometimes Papa can be as cruel to you...”
“No – your father can seem that way at times, but he never, ever would hurt me or you. You know that, I know that. Guy is very much an old school French nobleman, whereas Jacques de Ros...”
“I have never liked him, but we always believed in letting you make your own decisions, Diana. Now, we are here to support you – both of us.”
Diana nodded as Edith placed the coffee in front of her, and left the room.
“Edith is a special woman – she is a great help to me.”
Michelle nodded as she said “good – you need women like her. Have you talked to him since?”
“We live as man and wife, we do not talk. Valeria knows something is wrong, but not what.”
“But he will not come here?”
“No – and if he does, he will find Papa has changed the locks. Both Miss Kendall and Edith have strict instructions on what to do if he calls.”
“Good – I will be in town for some time. I open in two weeks – will you come to the opening night?”
“I would like that very much Mama – very much indeed.”
Casino Royale, Monte Carlo
“Red 32, Red 32.”
Jacques grinned as he collected his earnings, and kissed the young blonde model with him. So what if that boor of a wife did not want to see him, and wanted to go to Paris instead? She and his daughter would be well away from him.
He could be the man he was born to be – and if she complained, she knew what would happen.
As he paid a tip to the croupier, he told the girl to wait for him upstairs. Heading to the bar, he smiled at one or two people, and then spotted one of his male friends coming towards him.
Briefly Henri Marais
nodded, then moved away without saying a word.
"Strange," Jacques thought to himself, if he didn't know better, then he would have sworn the racing driver had just snubbed him. Come to think of it, several people he had counted as acquaintances had done the same tonight. It was most curious - did he have bad breath or something?
Walking to the bar, he saw three other friends standing there. As he walked over, one of them saw him coming, and talked quietly to the other two. They made to move off, but Jacques said “are you going to ignore me as well?”
“You two go on,” one of them said, “I’ll catch you up.”
“Tomaz,” Jacques said, “sit with me and have a drink.”
“I would rather not Jacques,” the sandy haired man said, “I must join my friends.”
As he turned to go, Jacques grabbed his arm and whispered “is my money not good enough anymore?”
Tomaz looked straight at him, and said “I have heard what happened to your wife de Ros. No friend of mine does that to anyone, much less his own wife. Now let me go, before I teach you a lesson.”
Jacques stared at him, before letting go. As Tomaz walked off, he still wondered what he had done that was so wrong.
Rue de Grenelle
Michelle gently laid Abigail in her cot, Diana and Miss Kendall watching.
“She is a true beauty,” she said as she looked at the other two women, “cherish and guard her.”
“We intend to Mama – and thank you for staying for dinner.”
“It was my pleasure,” she said as they left the room, and Edith helped Michelle on with her coat.
“I will see you later this week,” Diana said as they kissed, and Edith showed her out.
“With your permission, I will retire for the night,” Miss Kendall said, Diana nodding as she headed for her room.
"I take it that
was your Mother Madame?"
"Yes Edith,” Diana
said with a smile. “I don't see her a
lot, but she is an actress, she travels a lot..."
"She and your
father lead separate lives Madame?"
"Yes, for a number
of years now," Diana paused to think, "I still believe they love each
other, they just cannot live together."
"Well yes he has
had numerous affairs...but then so has she. I suppose that is why I accepted
Jacques doing so."
"Well talking of
Diana raised an eyebrow
and said "Yes Edith?"
"It is not my
place to say, but I have heard rumors regarding the parentage of the Countess
"It is better not
to visit that subject Edith," Diana broke in, "I am led to believe
that Valeria once attempted to break out of her straitjacket, but that her
attempts to do so led to a very bad ending. It is probably the one thing I have
sympathy for her over."
"So Edith please
forget whatever you might have heard about Natasha's father, and never raise
the subject again."
"As you wish Madame."
“I say this for your own good Edith – I may not like Valeria, but my hatred and my wrath are reserved for him. I would not have Natasha or even Valeria hurt any more than is absolutely necessary.”
Sunday 28th February
The room was silent as Diana finished her coffee.
“Would anyone care for any more,” she said as she went to the kitchen, Nessa following her.
As she turned and looked at Nessa, she smiled as she said “I am sorry, Nessa, but you did ask. That is the reason why I have not had any male companions as such – I cannot trust them save for a rare few, of whom your brother is one.”
“Does he know?”
“What happened? Not everything, no. He knows I was hurt badly many years ago, he knows Abigail will be my only child, but no more than that.”
As she started the machine, she said “do not think badly of the others for not telling – I asked them not to.”
“I understand. I saw your mother in a play when we lived in Paris – she was a great actress and chanteuse.”
“Yes, she was,” Diana said quietly as she turned and looked at Nessa. “I only have a small part of her talent. Will you help me with the cups?”
When they rejoined the others, Alice said “we were just remembering the first time we got together after the christening – the party for young Charly.”
“Ah yes,” Diana said, “but I need to tell you something of what happened before that, it may explain one or two things that happened there...”
Thursday 22nd April 1999
3 pm CET
Rue de Grenelle
Diana squatted in her black bodysuit and green leotard, Abigail watching from her seat as the man in the tracksuit gave instructions.
Diana smiled as she sat
on the floor, wiping her brow with the towel.
Hiring a personal trainer had definitely helped with her plans.
Gradually the weight was coming off and her old figure returning. Even her
mother had noticed it and complemented her on it.
The man smiled as he
folded his arms. "You are doing
remarkably well Frau Countess."
"Thank you Franz,”
Diana said with a smile, “but most of this is down to your work."
"No I just
suggest, it is you do the real work," the German trainer smiled.
"I'm just glad I
could tempt you to Paris like this,” Diana said as she stood up, “you came
highly recommended by my friend the Princess von Furstenheim."
"I have always enjoyed helping the Princess keep fit for her fencing." the German passed a bottle of water, "now drink...you need to re-hydrate."
“Thank you,” Diana said as she opened the bottle and took a long drink. “I will be away for the weekend, but I will see you on Tuesday?”
“Of course – keep up the work while you are away.”
“I intend to,” Diana said as she showed him to the door, “until then?”
“Of course,” Franz said as the door opened – and Diana saw Juliette standing there, a two year old blonde girl holding her hand.
“Juliette – and Carina – this is an unexpected pleasure!”
“We arrived a day early – I thought you might like the company for the journey to Outremont. Are we interrupting?”
“No – Franz was just leaving. Come in – Abigail is in her seat.”
“You look much better,” Juliette said as Diana closed the door.
“I am feeling better – hello Carina, how are you.”
“I’m good Aunty Diana,” Carina lisped as she put her finger to her mouth.
“Well, come and see Abigail,” Diana said as they went into the main room, and Edith came from the kitchen.
“Coffee for two please, and a glass of juice for the young lady, Edith.”
“Of course Madame,” Edith said as she returned to the kitchen.
“Hello Abby,” Carina said as she tickled the baby girl.
“So,” Juliette said quietly, “have you heard from him?”
“No – I know he is at the chateau at the moment, but he is driving up later tomorrow.”
“Well, we’ll all be watching for you, Diana.”
“Good – thank you, but I know the Goddess will be watching as well, and looking over you and me.”
“Both of us,” Juliette said as Abigail laughed.
“The coffee, and the juice, Madame,” Edith said as she put the cups on a high table, and handed Carina the juice cup.
“Fankew,” she said with a smile as she took it.
“Edith, before I forget, I was asked to pass you this,” Juliette said as she handed the housekeeper an envelope.
“From your sister I believe.”
“Ah – thank you Miss Huntingdown. If there is nothing else Madame?”
“No – thank you Edith,” Diana said as she nodded. “When does Miss Kendall return?”
“She is due back at 6 pm Madame.”
“Excellent,” Diana said as she sat down.
“It really seems strange, sitting in here again,” Juliette said as she looked round, “almost a lifetime has passed.”
“Well, I think we have both passed through the crucible, in our own way,” Diana said quietly.
“You really do look good, by the way – thinking of getting back into modelling?”
“When you are moving into writing rather than walking? No – those days are firmly in the past,” Diana said quietly.
“So when are you going to head north?”
“I thought we could leave after two tomorrow – I will drive up with Abigail and Miss Kendall, while Edith remains in residence here.”
“Sounds good – I have a hire car as well, so I will follow you.”
“Good – I need to visit an old friend in the morning, before we go...”
Friday 23rd April 1999
10 am CET
Near the Left Bank
Diana walked down the street, smiling as she saw the way some of the men were looking at her. She was wearing a Chanel dress in blue, with a matching jacket and heels, her hair carefully arranged and a pair of large sunglasses protecting her eyes from the spring sunshine.
As her heels clicked on the cobbles, she knew she was where she was meant to be, at home, at some peace with herself. But she also knew she had to remove the stain in her life – and a conversation that morning with her lawyer had made it very clear certain legal paths were closed to her.
That did not bother her – she had resolved in her heart to remove him from her life, by any means necessary.
One advantage of returning to Paris for a period – apart from the view – was the chance to revisit her gun club, and retrieve two old friends from storage. While Miss Kendall was taking Abigail for her medical check, Edith had offered to take care of them – a task she had obvious joy in doing.
Stopping outside the small art dealer, she looked at her reflection, before she opened the door and entered. The man inside turned and looked at her, smiling as he said “Diana – welcome, welcome.”
“It is good to see you as well, Antoine,” Diana said as she embraced her friend. He had dark hair, greying at the temples, and his gold cravat sat under the collar of his pale blue silk shirt, the dark blue suit fitted and tailored.
“I have to say, it was a surprise to hear from you, but I have managed to make the sales you requested. If you will wait here a minute, I have the cheque in the rear office.”
“Of course,” Diana said as she looked round. “How is Yvette?”
“I have not heard from her for a few days,” Antoine said as he came back through, “she is at your mother-in-law’s chateau, doing some cataloguing of the collection.”
Diana paled slightly, as she said “she is all right?”
“Of course – Valeria and Natasha are keeping her company. Why do you ask?”
“No reason,” Diana said as she put the envelope in her handbag. “I must be going Antoine – do let me know when you next talk to Yvette.”
“I shall,” the dealer said as Diana made her way onto the street. She had known Yvette since she was a toddler, and now she was seventeen, and preparing for university. A typical young French girl – she prayed she would stay safe...
Saturday 24th April
8.30 am CET
The Elphburg Residence, Outremont
The large dining room was a buzz of activity, as people helped themselves to food and sat at tables, talking and sharing their news.
As Diana walked in with Abigail in her arms, alongside Juliette with Carina, the room turned and looked – and then broke into applause, Terry walking over and embracing her old friend.
“How are you, Diana,” Terry said as she looked at her.
“I get better every day, thank you,” Diana said with a smile. She walked to a table and put her daughter into one of the high chairs, Juliette lifting Carina into the seat next to her before they sat down. As they did so, Miss Kendall brought over two plates of food for the young girls, then sat with them while Diana and Juliette went to serve themselves.
“Hello darlings,” Mandy said as they walked over, “Diana, you look marvellous. You must tell me your secret.”
“Hard work and diet, I am afraid Amanda,” Diana said with a smile. “Is that young Angelica?”
“It is – David and Jack are keeping her company,” she said with pride as they looked at the two boys sitting either side of the baby girl.
“She looks as beautiful as you do,” Diana said quietly as they walked back to their tables.
“Hey,” Alice said as she sat down with them, Duncan heading for the buffet, “Jack gave me something to pass onto you.”
“Oh yes – Although...”
“Whatever my feelings towards him,” Diana said, “he is Abigail’s father.”
“Yes, I am.”
Juliette heard the voice, and saw Diana stiffen, as Jacques sat next to them. “I hope you are enjoying your time in Paris Diana,” he said quietly, “I tried to call at the apartment to see you, but you had the locks changed, and the woman watching the apartment was very insistent I could not enter.”
“She would have been,” Diana said, “because I told her to do so. Besides, on a personal level, she and I feel the same way about you.”
“You both love me?”
Jacques’ smile was fixed, as Duncan, Rudi and Will all walked over to the table.
“I am your husband, Diana, I deserve some respect.”
“The only respect you deserve,” Will said quietly, “is the respect we will afford you to leave.
“And if I refuse?”
“That would be a regrettable mistake,” Rudolf said, “you are in my house, and you should respect the rank.”
Jacques turned and stood, looking at the King before he bowed and left the room, Diana letting out a sigh as he did so.
“Please, accept my apologies Rudi...”
“No apologies required – ensure he leaves,” Rudi said to two of the waiting staff, both nodding as they left the room after Jacques.
“There – I do not think you need worry about him here my dear,” Rudi said as he sat with them.
“Thank you,” Diana said
quietly. "It's a pity that the Ruritarian
government will not give permission for your father to be interred with his
ancestors at Strelsau Rudi."
"I know, but just
maybe one day," the King sighed, "at least unlike the communists they
did give us a hearing on the subject."
"Be patient old friend." Diana patted his hand.
“Patience is all we have had for many years – so I have plenty to offer.”
"Did I see your
Aunt Flavia was in America Rudi?"
"You did Diana, I
have to say the old girl does more than her fair share of the work in meeting
the ex-pat Ruritarian communities around the world..."
"And the various Royal restoration groups." Terri added. "I think they are getting quietly confident that one day...well just let me put it this way I'm more confident of one day being properly crowned Queen, then my Italian family are of there being a restoration in Rome."
“Well, when and if the day comes, call on me.”
“Oh I intend to – ah here she is.”
Diana watched as the nanny brought the young girl in, wearing a pink dress, and handed her to Terry.
“So this is Charlotte,” she said as the little girl looked round.
“It is indeed,” Terry said, “I wonder if she realises what she is coming into...”
It was one of the most unusual gatherings ever to grace the residence. On the large lawn, a collection of babies and toddlers were either playing or sitting looking round, while the nannies watched, and the mothers and fathers sat watching them.
"You do realize
that Charlotte and Abigail will probably have to go through that awful ritual
of being debutantes together one day don't you Diana?" Terry smiled as she sipped her coffee.
"I know, I
know," Diana laughed as she shook her head, "I just hope they will be
better at it then we were."
"Oh you both weren't that bad," Rudi smiled.
“Well, we could have been worse,” Terry said, “but you weren’t at Vienna Diana. Ever regret that?”
“Not really no – although the Countess may have a different view on the matter.”
“So when are you heading back to the chateau?”
“When I am ready,” Diana said quietly, “and I am not quite ready yet.”
“Well, if you want company...”
“Thank you,” Diana nodded, “but I have Miss Kendall to look after Abigail, and my housekeeper will accompany me this time. I am prepared for what may happen – although it is good to know I have friends like all of you to watch my back.”
“Of course we do darling,” Mandy said as she came over with Juliette.
“Listen,” Juliette said, “I know you may not have thought about this yet, but longer term...”
“I have consulted the du Grechy family lawyer,” Diana said, “and a divorce is possible, but not for some considerable time, and then there is the question of access.”
“It would be much simpler, in a way,” Juliette said, “if he was to die.”
Diana nodded slowly, hoping nobody saw the gleam in her eye at that thought. As she turned, she saw Juliette nod slightly as well, and knew she had seen it.
“Okay, enough depressing talk,” Alice said, “the kids are happy...”
“So, if they are debutantes,” Juliette said, “think who would be there. Angelica, Mandy?”
“I would imagine so, darling,” Mandy said as she watched the toddler looking at Abigail.
“Hasn’t Victoria had a daughter as well? And Olivia?”
“Yes, they do,” Mandy said, “so they may be there as well. Why aren’t they here anyway?”
Diana offered a prayer of thanks to the Goddess as Terry said “Victoria had a prior engagement, and Olivia is unable to come at the moment. A pity – it would have been good to see both of them.”
“Well, maybe one day...”
Sunday 28th February
“Well, that prediction certainly came true darlings,” Mandy said with a smile as she looked round the room. “And they were better debutantes than all of us.”
“That was an amazing weekend,” Alice said, “and then we headed off – except you Juliette. You followed a few days later, and then...”
“Jacques died,” Diana said, “and I snatched my chance for freedom. Two months later, I came to New York, and I have been here ever since. I need to thank you, Nessa – I should have said all that a long time ago, to all of you.”
“You never told us what happened after that weekend.”
“Jacques and I met once more, at the chateau,” Diana said as she stood up, “and then he drove to Italy on business. It was on his return trip that the car left the road. Now, let’s not end this weekend on a down note – let us agree to go forward as friends, and to be there on April to support Juliette.”
The women nodded as they made their way back to the rooms to pack, Nessa hugging Diana before she left.
“Feel better to have that out?”
“Strangely, yes,” Diana said to Juliette and Sandy, “even if they can never know the last part of the story in full. You are the only one who was there at the start of that, Juliette – and I was always glad you were...”
Friday 29th April 1999
11 am CET
Rue de Grenelle
“When does your flight leave,” Diana asked as she sat with Juliette, Edith working in the kitchen while Carina was with Abigail in the play pen.
“At six tonight. When do you go back to the Chateau?”
“Tomorrow, regretfully. But I will be coming over to see all of you in the early autumn, so keep me in your thoughts.”
“Of course I will,” Juliette said with a smile, “and besides, Carina likes being the protective big sister.”
Juliette smiled as Edith went to answer the doorbell.
“Monsieur Antoine Dumonde, Madame.”
Diana stood up as Antoine came in – but one look at his drawn, haggard face told her something was wrong.
“Forgive my calling unannounced, Diana,” he said quietly, “but...”
He looked at Juliette before Diana said “Sit, Antoine. Would you like some coffee, or perhaps something stronger?”
“I... Diana, it is Yvette. She returned home yesterday, but something has happened. She looked tired, and I heard her crying in her room last night. All I can get from her is that Countess de Ros asked her to leave.”
Juliette and Diana looked at each other, before Diana said quietly “did she say if she had seen my husband?”
“She will say nothing more – Diana, I know it is asking a great favour, but will you talk to her, see if you can find out what happened?”
“Of course I will,” Diana said as she put his hand on hers. “If it will help put your mind at ease. I have to see my friend to the airport, but I will come for dinner directly after that.”
“Thank you,” Antoine said as he stood, and Diana showed him out.
“Forgive me Juliette,” Diana said quietly, “but I fear Jacques has crossed a line. When you return to New York, will you do a favour for me?”
Going to a bureau, Diana took out a set of keys and handed them to her. “Will you have the house on 5th Avenue cleaned and prepared please?”
“Are you coming back for more than a visit?”
“I do not know yet. Expect me... When you see me.”
“Diana – thank you for coming,” Antoine said as he stood to one side. “Yvette has not emerged from her room since I returned, but I can hear her crying.”
“Of course I came,” Diana said as she removed her coat. “Go and wait in your front room Antoine – let me talk to her.”
The older man nodded as Diana walked to the bedroom door, and tapped lightly on it.
“Yvette? It’s Diana de... Diana du Grechy. May I come in?”
She waited a few minutes before the door opened, and a dark haired young woman opened the door. She was wearing a black waistcoat over a long sleeved white blouse, black satin pants and flat shoes.
“You did not use your married name, Diana.”
“No – something told me that was a name you did not wish to hear. May I come in?”
Yvette nodded as she stood to one side, closing the door after she had come into the room. Diana turned and looked at her, seeing the sunken eyes, the fearful looks, the redness, the pain.
“Goddess,” she whispered quietly, “Yvette, please, tell me what has happened.”
“I cannot, Diana – he...”
“That in itself tells me all I need to know, and shows I was right to fear,” Diana said quietly as she sat down. “Come, sit with me. I and my – husband – have much we need to discuss, but I need to know everything.”
“Yvette,” Diana said quietly, “he has hurt me as well – hurt me badly, scarred me, maimed me, but I know he will pay the price. What has he done to you to add to that ledger?”
Yvette looked at her, and then whispered “he deflowered me...”
“Did you give him permission?”
Diana watched as the young woman shook her head, and then held her as the tears came freely, unchecked, Yvette burying her head into the older woman’s shoulder. She allowed the time to pass, before Yvette looked at her, and said “you as well?”
As Diana nodded, Yvette said “I kept quiet, I wanted to keep my job, but last week, I realised... I realised I was late. I had to tell him, and then his mother called me in, and dismissed me.”
“How typical,” Diana said quietly. “And you are afraid of what your father may say?”
Yvette nodded as Diana took her hand. “Do not be afraid – come, you must tell your father what has happened, but let us keep his role in this to ourselves. You will need his support, and both of you will have mine.”
Saturday 30th April 1999
The offices of Dr Arnaud
Antoine and Diana stood up as her family doctor came in. Diana was dressed to travel, in a long blue coat, while Antoine wore a grey suit, white shirt and grey tie.
“Yvette will join us once she has finished dressing,” he said as he sat down. “I need the results of some tests to be confirmed, but there is no doubt in my mind – she is with child.”
Antoine sat down as Diana put her hand on his shoulder. “Do we know how far along she is?”
“I would guess at 5 to 6 weeks, but we can tell more in a few days. I have to say, there are options...”
“No,” Antoine said, “we will bring my grandchild up together.”
“In that case,” Diana said quietly, “I wish you to act as her physician on my behalf, Dr Arnaud. Whatever is required, let it be done and I will bear the cost.”
“Diana, I cannot ask this of you...”
“You are not asking me Antoine,” Diana said quietly, “I am insisting. Keep me appraised of her progress, please – I have to attend to some business, but I will return to Paris in a few weeks.”
“As you wish, Diana,” Dr Arnaud said as Yvette came in. “Poppa, I am so sorry...”
“You have nothing to apologise for,” Antoine said as he embraced his daughter, Diana indicating to Dr Arnaud to follow her out.
“I must go now,” she said quietly, “but this is to be billed to me personally. Be assured, the costs will be met.”
“Of this I have no doubt,” the doctor said, “but Diana, the other marks I saw...”
“Are between you and Yvette,” Diana said. “And yes, I can imagine where you saw them before. Let this be between us as well.”
Nodding, he allowed Diana back in for a moment. “Yvette,” she said, “Dr Arnaud will take care of you from now on. I go to talk to them, and will see you again soon.”
“Thank you,” the young woman whispered as Diana picked up her hat and coat. Walking from the offices, she hailed a taxi and said “Rue de Grenelle.” Sitting back, she had one thought in her mind.
For this, he had to die.
“Welcome back Madame,” Edith said as Diana came into the apartment, “the packing is done, and Miss Kendall has Abigail ready.”
“Excellent – Edith, we leave now, but I wish you to bring my car down on Monday, and stay in the hotel. I will make a booking for you.”
“Of course Madame – what do you wish me to bring?”
“The ladies – and your expertise. I told you I would offer the chance for revenge – it is fast approaching.”
“Of course Madame - let me know when you need me, and I will come.”
“Thank you Edith,” Diana said as Miss Kendall carried Abigail out in her travelling clothes. “Ready to go and see your grandmamma, little one?”
Abigail nodded as Edith picked up the telephone. “The car is outside Madame.”
“You know where to reach us,” Diana said to Edith, “we will see you soon.”
“Of course, Madame,” Edith said as she showed them out, and then went to the store room, returning with a long canvas bag. Opening it, she took out the two hunting rifles and checked them. “Beautiful – and just what Madame needs,” she said with a sigh.
Chateau de Ros
“Diana! You look fantastic!!”
“Thank you,” Diana said as Natasha ran up and embraced her. “I hope you have kept well Natasha?”
“I have – but there have been the most frightful rows here, Diana. I do not know what has happened, but...”
“Ah Diana – welcome back.”
“Thank you Countess,” Diana said formally as Valeria came out. “Is Jacques here?”
“No – he is in Monaco, but I am expecting him back tomorrow before he goes to Italy on a business trip. I hope we will see him – together.”
Diana nodded as she looked at Miss Kendall. “Would you make sure Abigail is changed, and then bring her to us?”
“Of course, Madame,” the nanny said as Natasha picked up the bag. “I will help you,” she said as they walked off, leaving Valeria and Diana in the hallway.
“Diana,” Valeria said quietly, “I...”
“I will change now, if that is all right,” Diana said quietly, “when will dinner be?”
“Eight,” Valeria said quietly, watching as Diana picked her case up and walked up the stairs. She so wanted to say something, but somehow she was stopping herself – because to say anything would mean admitting everything, and she could not do that.
She walked slowly back to the drawing room and poured herself a large brandy, before she sat herself down. How had it come to this, how had her plans for the future of the de Ros line fallen so wrong?
It was not that she actively disliked Diana – although her father reminded her far too much of the time she had tried to escape the stifling atmosphere of the Chateau in Paris. The result of that trip had been Natasha – and although Edouard had accepted her as his daughter, the fact they had not shared a bed for five years before that was perfectly clear between both of them.
She loved Natasha, and she loved Jacques – but she knew Jacques had inherited far too much of his father’s attitude of privilege, without Edouard’s inborn sense of self control. So she had sought to protect her daughter from being hurt in the way she had been.
But Edouard had died soon after Diana and Jacques had married – and she had taken on the role of the controller and protector of Jacques. When they had moved to New York, she had hoped that would have controlled him – but then the stories reached her ears, and she had gone to see if he could be stopped.
Then there had been the incident with Victoria James. Diana’s brother Alain had come to visit, and they had both watched Jacques get more restless. She had proposed a night in, playing cards, but he had gone out – and then when he came in, Alain left, only to return later with Diana.
The truth had come out – and rather than face up to what he had done, he had stormed out. She heard of the car crash the next morning – and two days later, he was summoned back to Paris.
Even bringing them to the Chateau had failed to curb him – and she had seen how unhappy Diana had become. But they were du Ros, and they had to maintain their position. When Diana was expecting, she had prayed for a grandson – and instead, she had the most beautiful granddaughter.
But the night of the christening, she had seen Jacques storm out. After a while, she went to find Diana – but instead found her room a mess. She had seen the blood stained sheets, the knotted nylons cut through – and then the red stained wooden rod.
That was when she knew Jacques had gone too far, but Diana had kept out of her way when she returned from wherever she had gone, and then left for Paris. Since then, she had wanted to say sorry, but now that the opportunity had arisen, she had not grasped it.
And she knew why – shame. Shame of what her son had become – and shame that she had not stopped it. The latest thing - the art assistant, and how she had become pregnant – all she could do was tell her to go, and hope they never met again.
And now she had returned, slimmer, looking fitter than before she left – and also colder. Something had changed – something dramatic, and she wondered what it was.
She looked up to see Diana standing there, Abigail in her arms.
“Come,” she said quietly, “let us eat...”
Sunday 1st May 1999
Chateau du Ros
“Good afternoon, sir,” the maid said as Jacques came into the hallway, still wearing his tuxedo, the bow tie hanging loosely around his neck. The manservant came in with his bag, as he looked round.
“Has my mother and sister returned from church,” he said quietly.
“They have Sir. The duchess is waiting for you in the drawing room.”
As he nodded and walked to the door, the maid hoped he would not be too angry at him for following his mistress’ orders...
“Mother, you wished to see me...”
As Jacques walked in, he was surprised to see Diana sitting there, with Abigail on her knee. She was wearing a light blue jacket and skirt, and black three inch leather pumps, and as she looked she saw the fire in his eyes.
“Ah – there you are Jacques. Will you have a drink?”
He turned to see his mother at the bureau, pouring a glass of wine.
“Thank you, but no Mama. Diana – I did not think you would return here so soon?”
“Life is full of surprises, Jacques,” Diana said quietly, but the tone in her voice as unmistakeable. “We – all three of us – need to have a conversation. Miss Kendall, would you take Abigail for a short while please?”
The elderly nanny nodded as she lifted Abigail and carried her out, leaving the three of them looking at each other.
“Now,” Valeria said as she sat down, “we need to talk about both of you, and the future.”
“Then let me make it simple and clear,” Diana said as she looked at Jacques, “there is no future in which Jacques and I share a life, not after what he has done to me.”
Valeria was not sure how to respond to this assertive reply. “Diana, I know Jacques has been a little heavy handed...”
“That,” Diana said quietly, “is an understatement worthy of an American politician, Countess.”
“Diana,” Valeria said quietly, “I know Jacques was...”
“Jacques is a rapist,” Diana said as she looked at him, “Goddess above knows how many times over, and I will not have him having any influence over our daughter.”
Jacques looked straight at Diana, before he said “you are my wife, Diana, mine to command.”
“Wrong,” Diana said quietly, “You are a rapist, who when you last attacked me, made sure it was impossible for me to ever have another child.”
Valeria was taking a sip from her glass as Diana said this, but the shock of her statement made her shake. Putting the glass down, she said “is this true?”
“Is it true I punished her for making a laughing stock of the de Ros family with that gay idiot of a photographer? Yes.”
“It is all right, Countess,” Diana said as she stood up, “it is important you see him for who he is, so that you understand what I must do. But it’s not just me, is it Jacques? Victoria – your loving mamma helped to cover that up, but I know as well. And then there is Yvette...”
“The cataloguer? She was just a little fun, harmless, nothing to me or you.”
At that moment, Diana knew what she had to do, as Jacques looked at them. “I need to get going if I am to be at the meeting tomorrow morning. We will talk when I return.”
“No, we will not.”
“Yes, we will. Mamma.” Jacques turned on his heel and walked out, Valeria shaking her head.
“It is too late for apologies, Mama Valeria,” Diana said quietly. “Far too late. But I will stay for a few days, while arrangements are made. It is important you spend time with Abigail – despite his actions, I would not deprive you of her.”
Valeria tried to say something, anything, but she could only nod as she stood up and made her way out of the room, Diana walking over to the large windows and looking out over the courtyard.
Her purpose now was clear – to pay for his crimes, against her, against Jacques, against Goddess alone knows how many others, Jacques, Comte de Ros, had to die. And he had to die before he could return and hurt anyone again.
Before he could return...
The answer was obvious – he had to die on the road back. There were far too many car accidents on those roads – and if he was to die, then why not there, preferably by fire and pain.
She knew Jacques drove with reckless abandon, how easy would it be to make it look like a crash? Diana knew something of the working of cars, but she knew how clever wreck investigators now were. It had to be done in a way that made it look as if he had lost control, preferably on a steep bend.
A bullet in his head would be particularly satisfying, but like all such wounds it would leave a tell tale hole as evidence – and no car fire would consume bone. No - it had to look like an accident, if the authorities could find ANY evidence that supported the view a crime had taken place, Diana knew that given recent events she would be the prime suspect.
So how to do it? Would a bullet in his tire leave a sign if he crashed and wrecked? Diana worried at her lack of knowledge, somehow, very discretely, she had to learn all of this before she made her plan.
She wished she could make his death long and very painful, but she was not by nature a sadist, and given it was Jacques there was also the remote possibility he might actually enjoy it. No his death had to be very, very, quick. She wished he might know it was her who had killed him, but Diana had no wish to live her life out in a prison. No this must be that rarest of things...a fool proof murder.
Diana turned to see the maid standing there.
“There is a telephone call for you, Madame.”
“Has the Count left?”
Diana nodded as she went into the hallway and took the handset.
“This is Diana.”
“Good afternoon Madame – I took the liberty of arriving early. The hotel has been able to accommodate me with no problem.”
“Edith... Edith,” Diana said with a smile, “get comfortable. I will call later tonight, and I wish to discuss a matter with you. A matter we both wish to see end.”
“Very well Madame – I await your call.”
Replacing the handset, Diana smiled. She could see a way forward – if Edith was as skilled as she thought she was.
Edith was sitting in a chair in her room, looking out onto the street outside and quietly sipping on a beer, when she heard the knock on the door. Standing up, she walked over and looked through the spyhole, then smiled before she opened the door and allowed Diana to come in.
“Good evening Madame,” she said as she closed the door, “I trust you have had an enjoyable weekend?”
“I would not use the word enjoyable,” Diana said as she removed her jacket, and sat in the chair opposite Edith. “But it was informative, and I believe my mother in law has a better appreciation of my position. However, I trust you had a safe and pleasant drive down?”
“I did Madame – your car is safely parked out of sight, and the ladies are secreted in this room.”
“Good,” Diana said quietly. “Edith, when we first met, I had the distinct impression you had military experience. Was I wrong in that?”
“You were not wrong Madame – why do you ask?”
“I ask because I suspect your greatest wish would be to put a bullet between my husband’s eyes. Am I mistaken?”
Edith shook her head and said “I hope this does not shock you Madame?”
“I suspect if I said I have thought of the same thing, you would understand, correct?”
As Edith nodded, Diana smiled. “Edith, I wish to pose a hypothetical question to you, which I would appreciate a hypothetical answer to.”
“I understand Madame. Would you care for a beer?”
“No thank you – but if you have a spare glass,” Diana said as she produced a hip flask. Edith went to the bathroom, returning with a glass for Diana to pour the brandy into.
“My mother,” Diana said as she sat back, “has appeared in a number of crime films in her time, and in them the police are sometimes seen shooting out the tyres on a moving car, causing it to crash.”
“A common trope in Hollywood as well, Madame,” Edith said as she sipped her beer.
“So, as someone with military experience,” Diana said quietly, “hypothetically speaking, is it possible to shoot out the tyres on a moving car?”
Edith thought for a moment, then said “it depends on a number of things, Madame. I am going to presume this is a normal car?”
“Let us, for the sake of argument, say it is a sports car,” Diana said quietly.
“I see – and will this vehicle be moving at speed?”
“Again, for the sake of argument, let us assume that it is.”
“I understand,” Edith said, “so I have an idea of the vehicle. The next question would be what sort of firearm?”
“Well, the films always see the police using handguns?”
“Well, by and large, that is a myth,” Edith said quietly. “On the other hand, a hunting rifle, or a sniper’s rifle, will project a bullet with enough force to penetrate a tyre. Obviously, distance becomes a factor, but to answer your hypothetical question – yes, it would.”
“When you say a hunting or a sniper’s rifle...”
“We are of course speaking hypothetically?”
“Then either of your ladies could possibly do the job Madame. It would be necessary to hit the tyre in the right place – contrary to what you may think, the tread is the best place, especially when the tyres are warm and the car is moving fast.”
“How very interesting,” Diana said, “and if a tyre was to be hit in this way, what would happen to the car?”
“Well, the driver would lose control. It then becomes a question of where this happens.”
“Suppose, as an example, on the motorway?”
“The driver would have to find a way to control the car and stop it safely.”
“Whereas, purely for example, on a winding mountain road...”
Edith nodded, and said “he would have to be an exceptional driver not to have an accident.”
“I suspected as much – thank you for your input Edith.”
“Should you wish to ask further hypothetical questions, Madame, I would be happy to offer opinions.”
“I thought you would, Edith. My mother in law will be in the vinery tomorrow – call on me at the chateau tomorrow at ten.”
“Very good Madame.”
Monday 2nd May 1999
10 am CET
Chateau de Ros
“Yes – may I help you?”
“It is all right, Anna-Claire,” Diana said as she walked over, “I am expecting her. Edith – come with me please. We can discuss domestic matters in the library.”
“Of course Madame,” Edith said as she followed the casually dressed Diana to the large library, noticing the maps spread on the table.
“I have been considering what we discussed further last night,” Diana said quietly. “Let us continue the hypothetical discussion. If a person was travelling from Milan to here, they would use the Tunnel Routier du Frejus, correct?”
“That would be the logical route Madame,” Edith said.
“So if someone was to try to shoot at a car to make it crash, after it left the tunnel, where would be the best place?”
Looking at the map, Edith considered for a moment, before she said “I would suggest here, in the mountains, where the road is raised. The car leaves the road and...”
“I understand,” Diana said quietly. “Edith, you and I will take a trip on a few days – be prepared.”
“I have been prepared for months, Madame – hypothetically speaking, of course.”
Saturday 7th May 1999
Jacques walked quickly out of the hotel, taking the keys from the valet and climbing behind the wheel of his Lotus before he gunned the engine and moved off. As he passed a Volkswagon Golf, it moved off and followed him along the road, the driver pressing the call button on her hands free set.
“He has just left the hotel – following as instructed.”
“Excellent – keep your distance, contact me again when he has cleared the tunnel.”
The French Alps
Diana ended the call and sat down, sipping the coffee from her cup. She and Edith had planned this all week, examining the maps, picking the best position – and now, now the time was drawing near.
She was surprised at how calm and collected she was, as if the Goddess had taken control of her, giving her the strength that she needed. She had told Valeria she had to visit her mother, and then driven to the small village.
Looking at her car, she finished her lunch and then left money on the table, walking slowly over. She had time to get into position, and prepare herself...
As Jacques emerged from the tunnel, he smiled to himself, before gunning the engine and speeding up, the cars behind him following suit where they could. The driver of the Golf smiled as she said “we’re clear of the tunnel – do you still believe he will follow the route you’re watching?”
At the other end of the call, Diana nodded as she looked out of her car window. “Unless he has changed the habit of a lifetime, he will take that route, but inform me if he does not leave at that exit. I will have time to go for the second point if he does not.”
Diana was still calm, still confident. Jacques, the smug bastard, felt he could handle the road that wound across the mountain, and got him back to the Chateau far more quickly in his mind then the wide motorway.
She was parked in a lay by looking over the road, a line of bushes along the edge of the tarmac. Opening the flask, she poured herself a coffee, and then opened the large canvas bag, looking at the rifles nestling inside.
Twenty minutes later, her cell phone rang again.
“He has turned off.”
“Proceed to the rendezvous. You will not hear from me unless there is a problem.”
Putting her cell phone down, Diana got out of the car, walking round and taking the bag out, before she walked to where there was a natural gap in the bushes. She made her way in, making sure she was hidden in the small hideaway formed by the branches as she took the rifle out, and checked the scope, before taking a pair of field glasses and looking at the road opposite.
Although he was taking the corners at speed, the tyres squealing as he took the sharp turns, Jacques was supremely confident in his own abilities. He would soon be home, with his beloved Mama – and if the cow was there, he would have words with her.
Diana looked through the field glasses at the approaching Lotus, recognising the number plate, and lay down, checking wind direction and adjusting the telescopic sight on her rifle accordingly. She made herself comfortable, and looked through the sight, allowing herself to become one with the gun, and going back to the days her father had taken her and her brother hunting for wild animals in the forests around the Chateau du Grechy.
She looked through the sight, watching the cars driving in both directions, patient, patient...
Jacques was enjoying the climb, the music, the thought of what he would do next...
Diana smiled and let out a long, slow exhalation as she recognised the car coming up the side of the mountain. He was right on time, the bastard, she thought to herself.
“Goddess, guide my eye and hand,” she whispered as she placed her finger over the trigger, following the car with the sight, waiting, waiting...
The first Jacques knew was the sound of the tyre blowing out, the bang taking him by surprise as he struggled to control the car. In his panic, he stepped on the accelerator by accident, the last thing he saw the white fence as the Lotus crashed through it, the blue of the sky, the colour of the hillside, and the brown as he hurtled down towards it...
Diana watched, as the car fell. It looked to her like it was in slow motion, as it dropped down the mountain side, and then hit the ground, exploding in a ball of orange and red. She had moved the rifle back, and watched through the field glasses, seeing the car burn as traffic stopped on the road, people getting out and looking down the mountain side.
She looked round, but there was no sign of Jacques, only the burning car. Diana eased herself out, brushing the evidence she was in there to the side and putting the rifle securely away, before she got into the car and drove off.
Chateau de Ros
“Oh hey Diana,” Natasha said as she saw her sister in law come in, “how was your mother?”
“She was well, thank you for asking,” Diana said as she took her coat and gloves off. “Has he returned yet?”
“No – and Mamma is worried. She was expecting him two hours ago.”
“Diana,” Valeria said as she came out, “have you seen Jacques?”
“No – be assured, Countess, if I saw him, you would have heard.”
The knock on the door made all three look round as the maid went to open it. Diana saw the local Gendarmerie Captain standing at the door, with two officers behind them.
“Forgive the late intrusion,” he said quietly, “is Countess de Ros in residence?”
“Captain,” Valeria said as she walked forward, “do you wish to speak to me?”
“May we come in?”
“Of course,” Valeria said as the maid stood back, the three officers walking in. “You may speak in front of my daughter and daughter in law.”
“We need to speak to all three of you anyway,” he said quietly, “may we go and sit somewhere?”
“Captain, what has happened?”
“Madame Comtesse,” the captain said as he removed his hat, “I am afraid we have had reports of an accident on the road over the mountains to here. A car left the road, and crashed after dropping to the river below.”
“Mon dieu,” Valeria said quietly as she held Natasha.
“Madame Comtesse, Madame Comtesse,” he said as he looked at Diana and Valeria, “it is my sad duty to inform you that Jacques, Comte du Ros, was killed in the accident...”
The servants all stopped and looked round at the sound of the scream, the unearthly and shrill scream that emanated non-stop from Valeria as she dropped to her knees, Diana and Natasha kneeling and holding her...
Tuesday 3rd May 1999
11 am CET
Chateau de Ros
As the captain came into the drawing room, he stood to attention and bowed to Valeria. The countess was dressed in a high necked black dress, while Natasha sat next to her in a black blouse and skirt, Diana to the side in a black jacket and skirt.
“Captain – thank you for calling again,” Valeria said in a quiet voice, “I wish to apologise for my outburst last night.”
“It was understandable, Countess,” he said.
“Please, sit, tell me your news. May we offer you some coffee?”
“Thank you,” he said as he sat down, Diana handing him a cup before she sat on the other side of Valeria.
“We have now managed to recover both the vehicle and the body,” the Captain said. “If you will let us know who is handling the arrangements...”
“Of course – do you think he suffered?”
“We do not think so – he would have died on impact.”
As Valeria nodded, Diana said “do the investigators have any idea what caused the crash?”
“It looks as if one of his front tyres blew out,” the captain said, “and he lost control. A tragic accident, but an accident nonetheless.”
Diana managed to keep her composure as Valeria nodded. “May we proceed with the arrangements?”
“We see no reason why not. The body will be returned here – although I regret to say, it will be a closed coffin.”
“Of course,” Diana said as Natasha wiped a tear from her eye. “Allow me to get the details for you.”
As she walked out of the room, she offered a silent prayer of thanks to the Goddess, and then went into the library, returning with a business card.
“Ah,” the Captain said as he looked at the details, “I will contact them later today. In the meantime, I must be about my other duties.”
As they stood up, Miss Kendall entered the room, Abigail looking round as she did so. “My granddaughter,” Valeria said, the captain nodding and tickling her chin before Natasha escorted him out.
“Father Bertrand, Madame.”
“Countess, Countess,” the priest said as he came into the room, “please accept my deepest condolences at this time.”
“Thank you Father,” Valeria said, “please, sit.”
Wednesday 4th May
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Thank you Mommy,” Carina said as she took the cup from Juliette, and started to drink the milk while her mother drank from her coffee mug.
“Now Grandma is going to come round to look after you today, and she’s going to take you to the park. Won’t that be fun?”
Carina nodded as the telephone rang, and Juliette picked it up.
“Ju darling? It’s Mandy.”
“Mandy – how are things in Londinium?”
“Better than in the Madoc, I fear – I have some sad news. Apparently, Jacques died in a car accident yesterday.”
Juliette sat down as she said “a car accident? What happened?”
“I’m not sure, but the death is in the Social Register today. I called Diana, and she confirmed the news for me, so I said I would let people know. She is having to handle the funeral arrangements as his widow.”
“Poor Diana – and poor Abigail,” Juliette said quietly. “What are the funeral arrangements?”
“He will be interred on Saturday – family only at Valeria’s request, but I did get a promise from Diana that she would see us soon.”
“Well, I will be thinking of them,” Juliette said as she looked at her daughter. “Thanks for letting me know Mandy.”
“Talk to you soon Pelican.”
As she put the telephone down, Juliette shook her head. She needed to talk to Diana, but not yet...
Saturday 7th May
11 am CET
The people lined the streets, either dressed in black or wearing black armbands, their heads bowed as the horse drawn carriage went past. The pale wooden coffin was in the glass covered carriage, Diana walking behind it with Valeria and Natasha. All three women wore black coats, hats and gloves, with veils covering their faces.
Behind them walked Miss Kendall with Abigail in her arms, and then Guy with Michelle, walking arm in arm, Michelle also veiled as Guy looked forward. Beside them walked Nikolai Barskov, erect and proud, and then the three du Grechy men, dressed in black, Guillemme walking between Alain and Roger.
As they approached the church, the men removed their hats, watching as the pall bearers carried the coffin into the church, the family following as the priest stood with his head bowed.
The service was simple, before Jacques was laid to rest in the cemetery, Diana watching as the priest said the words. He face was a blank mask, a sign of grief in many eyes. Valeria seemed similarly unmoved, but Natasha felt the grip of her mother’s hand as the coffin was slowly lowered into the ground.
The priest finished and stood back as Diana stepped forward, a single black rose in her hand. Looking at the coffin, she let the flower fall softly onto the lid, saying nothing before she turned and took Abigail, watching as the others paid their respects.
1.30 pm CET
Chateau du Ros
“Thank you for coming, Mamma, Pappa,” Diana said as she stood with her parents. “I and Valeria appreciate it.”
“It – well, I was going to say it was our pleasure,” Michelle said quietly, “but somehow those words seem inappropriate. But as our daughter, of course both of us were going to be here to support you.”
“Quite right, darling,” Guy said quietly,
“Guy, Michelle – I thank you for coming today.”
“Valeria,” Michelle said, “how are you feeling?”
“To be honest? Empty – but we are du Ros, so we will recover, and we will move forward. My focus now is to ensure the family never face something like this again.”
As Diana looked at her, Guy and Michelle looked at Diana. “Of course,” Guy eventually said, “when you are next in Paris...”
“I will never return there,” Valeria said firmly, “never. Excuse me – I must talk to the others.”
As she walked away, Guy raised an eyebrow and looked at Diana.
“I will let you know my plans in due course, Pappa,” she said quietly.
“When is the will to be read?”
“Later today – once you have left.”
“And what of you and Abigail?”
“I will let you know soon,” Diana said, “once certain arrangements have been made.”
3.30 pm CET
“Please, take a seat,” the du Ros family lawyer said as Diana, Valeria and Natasha sat in the library of the chateau.
“Thank you , Monsieur,” Valeria said quietly.
“Firstly, may I also add my condolences to those you have received, Countess.”
“Thank you,” Diana said quietly as he took a seat facing them.
“It is now my sad duty to read the last will and testament of Jacques, Comte du Ros,” he said as he put on a pair of wire rimmed glasses, and opened a folded parchment.
“I am required to confirm that this document was dictated to me, transcribed, and signed by Jacques as well as two independent witnesses. It therefore constitutes an Authentic Will under French law.”
“I understand,” Valeria said as Diana stayed quiet, “please, continue.”
“I, Jacques Philippe Eduardo, Comte du Ros, of Rosville, write this Authentic Will with the intent of setting forth my wishes for the disposition of my estate after my death. As of the date of this Will, I am of sound mind and am totally capable of determining my own affairs. This particular Will makes any previously signed Last Will and Testament invalid and without binding legal force.
“As to my personal possessions, and chattels, which I will leave behind in the wake of my death, I, here and now, declare my intent as to their disposition.
“As to my legal interest in my homes and properties in France, and in the United States, I want it to go to my wife, Diana, to provide a safe and stable home for our daughter. The deeds of these properties,” the attorney said as he held them up, “to be transferred to her on completion of all legal requirements.”
“How thoughtful of him, to ensure Abigail will have a roof over her head,” Natasha said quietly, Valeria nodding.
“As to the funds in my bank account, I want them to be disposed of in the following manner, once all necessary duties have been paid.
“I leave to me darling sister, Natasha, the sum of one hundred thousand Francs, to be invested to ensure she has a suitable dowry when she is married.
“The remainder of my liquid assets, as well as my stocks, bonds and other financial investments save for the exception following, are to be placed in a trust fund for my daughter, Abigail, to be held in trust for her until her twenty fifth birthday. When she turns eighteen, she will be allowed to draw an annual income from the fund. The trustees to be appointed by my mother, Valeria, Countess du Ros.”
The attorney looked at Diana, who in turn looked at Valeria.
“I ask you to be a trustee, Monsieur, as well as Diana.”
“I will arrange for the paperwork to be drawn up in due course, Madame.
“The only exception to the above instruction is my interests in the Chateau du Ros Vinery – those, I wish to be transferred back to my mother, Valeria, to be incorporated into her own holdings.
“Finally, I ask for my other personal items which are not clothing to be placed in storage, until such time as Abigail is of legal age to dispose of them in a manner she so desires. My clothing is to be disposed of by my mother in a manner of her choice.
“The will is correctly signed and dated.” Removing his glasses, he looked at Diana and said “I have set the wheels in motion concerning the transfer of deeds into your name, Countess du Ros.”
“How long will it take for the transfer to take place, and for the arrangements of the trust fund to be completed?”
“We require seven days to prepare the legal paperwork, and then it will need to be signed in the presence of two witnesses.”
Nodding, Diana watched as Valeria stood.
“Thank you – let us know when the papers are ready.”
The attorney bowed and followed Valeria out of the room.
“Diana,” Natasha said quietly, “I am sorry. I thought he would leave you some money...”
“Do not worry,” Diana said quietly, “I have control of our properties, and some of those can be liquidated. He has also left Abigail well provided for – and in itself, that is good. I have income of my own to draw on – and I have invested wisely over the years. I will be all right.”
Valeria came back in, sighing as she looked at them. “So, now we must look to the future,” she said finally. “I have asked for dinner to be served early.”
Diana nodded, as she said “I must go and spend time with my daughter. I will see you both at dinner.”
Leaving the room, she walked to the nursery, smiling as Abigail looked up at her from her seat.
“Are you all right, Madame,” Miss Kendall said from her seat.
“Strangely, I am,” Diana said quietly. “Miss Kendall, I need to ask, will you be ready to move soon?”
“I have everything I need here Madame. To pack would not be an issue.”
“Good,” Diana said as she nodded, “there are legal matters that need to be dealt with, and then we will return to Paris. Once there, I will be at liberty to explain what will happen next.”
Miss Kendall nodded as Diana picked Abigail up.
“We are going to make sure you grow up where you can be the girl you deserve to be, and where you can be comfortable as yourself, not what others want,” Diana said as Abigail giggled.
Monday 16th May 1999
2 pm CET
Rue du Grenelle, Paris
Edith opened the door as Diana walked in, removing her gloves and coat to reveal her black trouser suit, the white camisole top under the jacket.
“Welcome back, Madame,” she said as Miss Kendall bought Abigail in.
“Thank you Edith,” she said as the concierge brought the cases in. “How are things?”
“Your correspondence is in the drawing room, and I have a late lunch prepared as per your instructions.”
“Excellent – I would like us to eat together,” Diana said as Miss Kendall removed Aibgail’s coat, “there is much for us to discuss, and not much time to arrange certain matters.”
“Of course, Madame,” Miss Kendall said as they sat at the table, Edith serving the Bouillabaisse as Diana poured the wine for all three of them.
“I need to let you know,” Diana said, “that it is my intention as soon as possible to relocate back to New York, to allow me to be amongst friends again.”
“How soon, if I may ask Madame?”
“As soon as I have arranged for the visa for Abigail and myself, we will depart. I have no desire to stay here any longer than is absolutely necessary, and I will take one suitcase of clothing to allow myself and Abigail to be covered for two weeks.
“Miss Kendall, as soon as I land, and am assured that the mansion on 5th Avenue is ready, I will send for you to come by the first available flight, and to assess the nursery is properly equipped. Edith, I will require you to ensure the rest of my possessions, and Abigail’s things, are packed and shipped over, before you follow – assuming you wish to remain as my housekeeper.”
“It would be my honour to continue in your employment, Madame.”
“Excellent – Miss Kendall?”
“I have looked after you since you were a babe in arms, Countess – of course I will continue to look after Abigail.”
“Thank you,” Diana said as she smiled. “Now, let us eat, and make our preparations.”
Tuesday 17th May 1999
Rue du Grenelle
“Monsieur Antoine and Mademoiselle Yvette Dumonde, Madame.”
“Thank you Edith,” Diana said as she stood up, “would you bring some coffee for all three of us, please?”
“Certainly Madame,” Edith said, smiling as her two visitors took their seats.
“We heard the news, Diana,” Antoine said, “may I offer our condolences?”
“Thank you,” Diana said, “I know they are offered in the correct spirit. How are you Yvette?”
“I am well – despite the morning sickness,” the young woman said with a smile. “Doctor Arnaud has been a great help with everything.”
“He has been our family doctor for many years,” Diana said, “and I know he will look after you and your child. It is that I need to talk to you of – only we three know who the father is, and with his death, it means there is no chance of his name been on the birth certificate, or of your child getting what he or she deserves to have as a descendant under French law.”
“If I may be honest?”
“Antoine,” Diana said with a smile, “you know I expect no less from you.”
“Then I do not wish anything from that family. You have been very generous to us, and we thank you for that, but this child will be brought up as a Dumonde.”
“As it should be,” Diana said quietly, “but I would not see you go wanting. If you ever have need of anything, ask. If it is in my ability to do so, it shall be done.”
Edith carried in the coffee and cups on a tray, leaving them with Diana before she left the room.
“I thank you for the offer and the support,” Antoine said as she poured. “And what of you and little Abigail?”
“We will be moving,” Diana said, “but I will keep in touch. Now, let us talk of brighter matters...”
Saturday 21st May 1999
The Huntingdown Apartment
“So what can I do for you Merlin,” Juliette said as Mary Thomas sat in her front room.
“I just wanted to pick your brains lass,” Mary said as Carina was drawing on some paper on the floor, “ideas for the December issue. Do you think...”
The telephone ringing made Mary stop as Juliette stood up. “Let me get this,” she said as she picked up the handset.
“Of course they may come up – will you help them with any luggage they have?”
“Guests,” Mary asked as Juliette put the phone down.
“That is a very good question,” Juliette said as she opened the apartment door, Mary seeing her smile as she said “Well, you did say to expect you when I saw you.”
“And here I am,” she heard a woman with a French accent said, and as she stood she saw Diana come in, looking slim, and wearing a chic coat over a blue sun dress. Abigail was in her arms, looking round as she sucked on a teething ring.
“Diana, my love,” Mary said as she came over and hugged her, “how are you? I heard about Jacques.”
“Indeed – it was a shock, but it has given me the opportunity to come,” Diana said as the doorman brought in two cases. “Juliette, I know it is an imposition, but may we stay here for a few days?”
“Of course,” Juliette said as Carina toddled over.
“Hello Abby – can she play with me Momma?”
“Of course she can – let me find your old seat for her to go in,” Juliette said as she went upstairs.
“While she does that, would you like some coffee Diana?”
“That would be wonderful,” the young French woman said as she sat down, the doorman leaving and closing the door behind himself.
“I will see you on Monday Mary,” Juliette said as she showed her friend out, while Diana watched the two girls.
“She is looking well,” Diana said.
“So are you – out of the widow’s weeds?”
“The time for acting the dutiful wife has passed,” Diana said. “The time to live has started again. How goes the preparations at the mansion?”
“It has been cleaned and everything there made ready, but no word yet as to what room will be used for what. I will say this – all of Jacques’ things have been put into storage for the time being.”
Putting her hand on Diana’s arm, Juliette said “tell me the truth Diana – was it you?”
“Yes – it had to be by my hand, and no other. I made sure he would never hurt anyone ever again.”
“And as for you?”
“I will never let any man hurt me in that way again,” Diana said quietly as Abigail laughed.
“Well, you’re amongst friends now,” Juliette said as she stood up, “and you can stay here with Abigail until everything is ready. So - the nursery?”
“Allow me to make a phone call,” Diana said as she stood up, “Miss Kendall will be here within 24 hours, and will stay in the mansion while the nursery is equipped. My new housekeeper will supervise the shipping of the rest of our things over the next week or so.”
“Well, we can manage,” Juliette said. “Why don’t we get the spare room set up with Carina’s old crib for the moment?”
Sunday 22nd May 1999
The de Ros Mansion, 5th Avenue
As Diana unlocked the doors and walked in, memories came back unbidden, of the time before they had returned to France. For a moment, she thought she heard Jacques shouting – but then she remembered, and shook herself.
“Well, what do you think?”
Diana turned to see Juliette there, standing with a woman in her early twenties. Both were casually dressed.
“Diana, you remember Sandy Richmond?”
“Of course,” Diana said as she looked at her. “How are you Sandy?”
“Not bad,” the younger woman said as she looked round. “I could do a few things with this place you know – a little remodelling, things like that.”
“Sandy’s thinking interior design may be her field, rather than modelling,” Juliette said as they walked towards the kitchen, “so if you fancy getting some work done...”
“I will bear it in mind,” Diana said as they went in, and she opened the cupboard. “Ah – thank you for laying these in,” she said as she started to make some coffee.
“I’ll get that,” Juliette said as they heard the doorbell, Sandy looking at Diana as she poured the fresh hot coffee into the cups.
“So, no modelling?”
“It’s not really for me,” Sandy said with a smile. “And you?”
“Those days are behind me – I have a child to bring up now,” Diana said as she sipped from her cup, and then smiled. “Ah – Miss Kendall. Welcome back to New York.”
“It is good to be back Madame,” the nanny said as she came in.
“Sandy Richmond, meet Suzie Kendall, Abigail’s nanny. I’ve asked her to come over and equip the nursery before we move... Actually, why don’t I show you both the room I wish to use?”
“Both of us?”
“Of course – Sandy wishes to be an interior designer, Miss Kendall. I want the two of you to work together on the nursery.”
“Sounds good to me,” Sandy said as she looked at the older woman.
“Well, let me show you the room I have in mind,” Diana said, “this way please.”
As they walked off, Juliette looked round, her coffee mug in her hands. It was going to be a good place to come to again.
“Momma, Abby is smelly.”
“Oh dear,” Juliette said as she put her cup down, “let’s see if we can make her dry again, shall we?”
She knelt down and opened the changing bag, making Abigail laugh as she changed her diaper.
Tuesday 24th May 1999
“Are you sure Miss Kendall can cope with both Carina and Abigail,” Juliette said as the cab pulled up on the kerbside.
“Juliette, darling, Miss Kendall was my nanny. If she could cope with me, she can cope with them.”
“I thought that Diana had gone?”
“No, she has merely – grown up a little,” Diana said with a smile. “So who are we meeting here?”
“Well, if you are going to make your home here, then it is time you made a few new friends – so I think joining us tonight for our monthly evening get together is exactly what the doctor ordered.”
Saying this, she looked at Diana, in her grey trouser suit and cream coloured camisole, before opening the door and almost pushing her in.
“Well now, I see Miss Fashion Writer is here,” a dark haired woman said as a group turned round, “and she brought someone with her. Do we get to be introduced?”
“Of course you do,” Juliette said with a smile. “Girls this is Diana de Ros, Diana meet some of the Upper East Side’s most ‘notorious’ women.”
“Who us?” an elegant looking woman wearing an YSL suit said as she extended a manicured hand. “Hi I’m Kelly Rochermann…mother of twins.”
“Enchante,” Diana shook hands. “Are they the same age as Carina?”
“A year younger,” Kelly said with a smile. Do you have any children?”
“A baby girl – she will be one in July.”
“I’m Liz Lodge,” another woman said as she stood up, “I have just one brat, a little boy.”
“And I’m Tonia, and determined to never let a baby ruin this figure,” a woman wearing Alexander McQueen kissed Diana on the cheeks.
“And the three of them are sometimes called the ‘Unholy Trinity’,” another woman laughed, “Hi I’m Claire Morse, one girl as yet.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you as well Claire.”
“I’m Rachel McNally,” a brown haired woman said, “also the mother of one girl.”
“Well,” Diana said with a genuine smile, “I can see that Abigail will not lack for playmates.”
“Do you have a nanny arranged as yet?” another lady asked.
“Yes, and I have brought my own housekeeper as well. She is currently finalising the shipping of our things from France.”
“Oh then you are well provided for…Hi I’m Brooke Hatton, and I only get invited because I had the misfortune to go to school with most of these bitches.”
“Not really Diana,” Claire smiled, “but Brooke just likes to be provocative…what she also fails to say is that she and my husband are both lawyers down on Wall St with the same company.”
“Well I’m glad to meet you all. I think I saw one or two of you at parties before when I was in New York, but this is the first time we have actually met.”
“Oh yes – now I remember where I saw you before,” Liz said. “Your husband used to be in the French delegation. What happened to him?”
“He died recently – a car crash. Part of the reason for moving here is to build a new life for Abigail and myself.”
“Oh I am sorry to hear that,” Claire said with genuine sympathy. “So where do you know Juliette from?”
“Well,” Diana said as Kelly handed her a glass of wine, “believe it or not, I used to do some modelling. I met Juliette when she was studying at the Sorbonne...”
“Oh really? Juliette never tells us much of her time over there – what was she like?”
“A very good friend,” Diana said with a smile.
“So where are you going to live,” Liz said.
“Well, we kept ownership of a mansion on 5th Avenue – I’m staying with Juliette while the nursery is been prepared with Sandy Richmond’s help.”
“Oh-ho, so Sandy has her first commission? Well done that woman,” Tonia said with a smile.
"By the way, and
talking of Sandy, who is that over there looking so lovingly at her?"
Graham." Juliette replied.
"How can you tell
Cherie...you never even looked."
and Sandy are a HUGE THING," Kelly smiled.
"We don't need look, we see them together EVERYWHERE," Claire laughed.
girls," another woman smiled as she walked over.
Elaine," Juliette stood up and kissed the woman. "Diana de Ros this
is Elaine Colman, the real estate agent who found me my apartment."
Elaine shook Diana's hand.
"These are my
friends Andi Berryman, and Jane Molloy. Keep your mouth shut round Jane by the
way...she's a reporter for the Times."
“Ignore her – she got a good commission today,” Jane said as she sat down.
"So do you all
know each other?" Diana indicated Ju's friends.
"Oh yeah, we were ALL Angels together." Jane laughed.
"Angels?" Diana asked as the women all smiled.
“We were all in the same class at St Angela’s,” Liz said, “it’s one of the better private girls schools. Maybe you should sign Abby up for it?”
“Oh, I think I have time to decide on that,” Diana said.
“Oh there you are,” Kelly said as she stood up and kissed the latest arrival on the cheeks. “Suzanna, this is Diana de Ros. Diana, meet Suzanna McGeorge – she has a little girl the same age as Ally and Nell.”
“Welcome to the group,” Suzanna said as she sat down. “So what do you do to earn an honest crust?”
“A job – ah, I have a set of investments that provide my income,” Diana said, “although I may be looking for some charitable work to perform.”
“Well, Claire and I sit on a few committees,” Kelly said, “so I’m sure if you wanted to join us, you would be more than welcome.”
“Thank you,” Diana said with a smile. “I think I am going to like settling here.”
“Buffy and Ally had great fun on their play date today,” Suzanna said as she took a drink.
“We need to introduce your daughter to them, Diana,” Rachel said. “Perhaps we can get them all together on Friday morning?”
“That sounds like a plan,” Juliette said with a smile. As Diana looked round, something occurred to her.
something different about Brooke?" Diana whispered in Juliette's ear.
"There is something, I'm not sure what, different about her?"
"You mean other
then she's a lesbian?"
"She's WHAT?" Diana almost dropped her glass.
“Oh yes,” Liz said, “has been since we were in school together.”
“Well, if she is happy?”
“Oh yes – Tom says she’s a great lawyer, I say she’s a great friend.”
“This St Angela’s obviously makes strong bonds between you.”
“Oh yes,” Kelly said as they started to sing the school song.
Friday 27th May 1999
The de Ros Mansion
Miss Kendall opened the door, smiling as she saw Edith standing there, the taxi driver bringing her case up the stairs.
“Welcome back,” she said as she stood to the side, and Edith removed her coat.
“Thank you Suzie – where is Madame?”
“She has taken Abigail to meet some other children of similar age – she has made a number of new friends, and they wanted to get together. The rest of the belongings?”
“The shipper should be arriving early this afternoon,” Edith said as a young woman came out, wearing a pair of denim overalls and a bandana holding her hair back.
“Miss Richmond, may I introduce Edith Hargraves, Madame de Ros’ housekeeper. Edith, this is Alexandra Richmond. She has been decorating the new nursery.”
“Pleasure,” Sandy said as they shook hands.
“Let me show you to your room,” Miss Kendall said as she paid the taxi driver, “and then I will make some coffee.”
“That sounds good,” Edith said as she picked her case up, and followed Miss Kendall. Sandy smiled as she called out “hey Tonia – are we ready for that furniture delivery later?”
The McNally Apartment
“I like your new friend,” Judy McNally said as she watched with Carina and Bobbi Morse, “she looks nice.”
“She is – and we’re going to be best friends with her,” Cari said as Abigail giggled, laughing with some of the other babies...
Monday 30th May 1999
The de Ros Mansion
“Welcome home Madame,” Edith said as she held the door open, Diana walking in with Abigail in her arms as John Bowden carried in her cases and bags.
“Thank you Edith,” Diana said as she looked round, “I trust everything has arrived safely?”
“and placed in the rooms according to your instructions Madame. We have also had the parlour full stocked.”
“Welcome, Madame,” Miss Kendall said as she came out, “would you like to see the nursery?”
“Later,” Diana said as she handed Abigail over, and removed her own coat, “allow me to have a few moments in my own drawing room again.”
“Of course, Madame,” Miss Kendall said as she looked at Abigail. “Would you like to see your room, little one?”
Abigail nodded as they went up the staircase.
“Edith, would you show John where to put the bags please?”
“This way,” Edith said as John carried the first case up, and Diana walked into the drawing room. She ran her hand over the back of one of the chairs, and then noticed the pot of fresh coffee. Smiling, she sat and poured herself a cup, before taking a drink.
“It is good to be home,” she said quietly to herself. As the door opened, she smiled and held her arms out to take Abigail.
“She seems to like the work Miss Richmond has done,” Miss Kendall said with a smile.
Edith appeared at the doorway, and said “Miss Huntingdown, Madame.”
“Hey – how are you feeling,” Juliette said as she came in.
“I am feeling – good,” Diana said. “As if a great cloud has been lifted from my heart, and I can begin to live again.”
“Good – because I have been told your turn to host the mothers is at the end of this week.”
“Start as you mean to go on, Diana.” Juliette accepted the coffee, before she said “I understand how you feel about men, but you need female friends – and as your oldest friend, I speak from experience.”
Diana smiled, and said “you had better let Edith know – she’ll need to get in some extra supplies.”