What’s Old Pussycat – part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 28th November

10 am

JFK Airport

 

“Well,” Diana said as they sat in the Captain’s Lounge, “at least they paid for a more suitable fare this time.”

 

“I guess so,” Abby said as she flipped though the paper, “at least we can sleep on….”

 

“What is it,” Diana said as she looked at her daughter.

 

“Oh dear – someone is unhappy about our calendar,” she said as she handed her mother the Times.  Diana read the comments, and then shook her head.  “If I am happy with it – and I am – there is no problem.  Besides, it could be a much worse day today.”

 

“Oh – how?”

 

“You could be with Carina.”

 

Abby giggled.  “There is that, yes.”

 

 

11 am

Boston

 

“All right,” Juliette said as she got out of the car, “the plan of attack?”

 

“Angel, Judy and I take Ama to the gloves store, we place the order, then see how far we get on the mall,” Carina said as she strapped Judith in her chair, and handed her to her mother.

 

“The boys and I go and get what we need to get, then grab some lunch,” Will said as they got out of Dave’s car, while Caroline pulled up alongside them.

 

“I do not understand why we have to be so precise,” Ama said as she got out.

 

“I agree – why,” Charlotte said as she and Annie joined them.

 

“You will – trust me.  We run interference for the girls, and buy them lunch?”

 

“And meanwhile, Ju, Mandy and I meet up with Karen and Alice,” Caroline said.  “Sounds simple enough to me.”

 

“Oh you have so much to learn – but you will,” Juliette said as they walked en masse to the elevators, “or didn’t you wonder why it took so long even to get to a pre-paid parking space?”

 

“Ju, I’ve done Oxford Street on a New Years Sale day – this could not be worse than that.”

 

“Bets?”

 

The elevator opened on the busiest mall any of the girls had ever seen.

 

“Welcome to Black Friday ladies,” Annie said, “get your helmets and pads on – it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

 

 

“Scrum down boys,” Will said as the four men set off in one direction, while Annie led the girls one way, and Juliette took the mothers in a different direction.

 

“Oh no,” Ama said as she struggled to get through the crowds, “I am not sure I like this.”

 

“Stick with me,” Annie said as she held her hand, “the street is just over here.”

 

They finally emerged onto the main street, catching their breath as Charlotte looked round.

 

“That…” she panted “was ridiculous.  What the hell is…?”

 

“Simple,” Cari said, “in the US, the moment Thanksgiving is over and done with, Christmas descends like a biblical storm – and everyone goes nuts.  The secret is to have a target and focus on it – and ours is down this street.”

 

They headed down to Newbury Street, finding Judy outside a store with “Sermoneta” above the doorway. 

 

“There you are,” she said as she hugged everyone, “good drive?”

 

“Good drive, lousy walk,” Carina said.  “Judy, this is Lady Angelica Fitzstuart, Dave’s sister.”

 

“So you’re the remarkable Jude?  Call me Angel,” she said as they embraced.

 

“He said you were a good one,” Judy said, “shall we go in?”

 

They entered the store, a haven of calm as an assistant walked over.

 

“Can I help you ladies?”

 

“I hope so,” Carina said, “you were recommended to us by Miss Alexandra Richmond of New York.  We require dress gloves for debutante balls?”

 

“Ah,” she said as she looked at the girls, “is that true for all of you?”

 

“Only for us,” Carina said as she indicated herself, Judy and Angel, “my friends are merely here as our bodyguards, but they will look around as well.”

 

“In that case, if you three will accompany me, your friends are at leisure to browse.”

 

“Go on,” Charlotte said, “we’ll manage.”

 

11 am

The Richmond Mansion

 

“Thanks for coming Jan.” Sandy said as she welcomed her friend. “I do not normally venture near the stores on this day, but we have a group of teenage bargain hunters and they say they want to do this.”

 

“I heard,” Jan smiled as Katy and little Sandy hugged.  “Do they all have a death wish or something?”

 

“That is a very good question,” Barbara said as she put her coat back on, “one I intend to ask them myself.”

 

“So me, you, Heather, Barbara, John and the limo, get to fight the crowds on Fifth Avenue, whilst my cunning Mother stays here with the children and does the easy part.”

 

“Baby sitting is easy?” Vanessa questioned.  “Especially with two girls and George?”

 

“It’s all right Gran,” little Sandy said, “we’re going to write our letters to Santa Claus.”

 

“I’ll swap.” Heather grimaced as she zipped her boots up.

 

“What about you Jo?” Janice asked.

 

“Reluctantly I’m coming. My sister was making threatening noises about cutting off my allowance if I didn’t.”

 

“Damn straight I was.” Heather zipped her jacket up.  “We need as many bodies as we can muster.”

 

“So what’s the plan for the battle?” Jan sipped on the cup of coffee Vanessa passed her.

 

“John is collecting everyone in the car.” Sandy answered. “He’ll ring when he’s outside. We try and find a parking spot, if as I suspect we are going to be unsuccessful, John drives back here and waits while we fight the crowds.”

 

“Can’t you just flash your badge and get us a spot outside stores Jan?”

 

“No even an FBI badge doesn’t work today Jo.  Goddess knows I wish it did.”

 

“What’s Adam doing?”

 

“He heard the call and scarpered before I got the chance to ask.”

 

“Sensible guy,” Jo whispered as she looked outside.

 

“Well let’s hope they at least respect Jeannie’s wheelchair.” Heather sighed as Sandy’s phone rang.

 

“Okay ladies they are outside, gird your armour on.” Vanessa laughed.

 

The group headed out to join Doc, Jeannie, Pepsi, Becky and Nikki in the back of the car.

 

“Oh good – the heavyweight escort,” Jeannie said with a laugh as they got in.

 

“See if you say that when we’re done,” Jo said.

 

“Alright ladies where to first?” John smiled in his mirror at the women in the back.

 

“Lord & Taylor’s please Granddad.” Jeannie looked at her wants list.

 

“Are you sure you really want to do this darling?” Sandy asked the young model.

 

“Damn straight I do…”

 

“That contract you just signed…”

 

“I still don’t want to pay full price if I can avoid it.” Jeannie smiled.

 

“And the rest of us NEED the sales discounts.” Anna glanced up from her list.

 

“So what’s top of the lists girls?” Jo asked resignedly.

 

“BOOTS!” the chorus came back.

 

“Okay the shoe department it is.” Heather looked at the crowds as they pulled up at the Fifth Avenue entrance.

 

“Okay I’ll pull in and we can unload all of you.” John grimaced, “but then you are on your own.”

 

“Hey Mac you can’t park here.” The doorman said as he came over and tried to chase the limo away.

 

“One of my passengers is in a wheelchair.” John growled back.

 

“And she wants to come in here…. today?” the doorman shook his head as John lifted Jeannie into her chair.

 

“First time, mate – she needs to learn the hard way,” John said, the doorman nodding as he saw the five girls and the escort party.

 

“All here?” Barbara asked as she counted heads.

 

“Ladies I’ll run interference as far as the door, but from then on youse on yer own.” The doorman started to clear the way. “Have FUN shopping ladies,” he laughed as he opened the doors.

 

“Oh Goddess where is Uncle Alex when you need him.” Sandy grimaced at the sight of the crowds inside.

 

“All right, phalanx at the ready, and – FORWARD” Sandy cried as they plunged in.

 

 

2.30 pm

Bistro du Midi, Boston

 

“Alright I recant every nasty word I ever said about Harrod’s on Boxing Day… compared to this it is positively tame.” Mandy shook her head as they took their seats.

 

“Just be glad we aren’t hitting one of the big suburban malls.” Juliette laughed, “they are far worse.’

 

“Especially the electronics retailers.” Carina added.

 

“Am I hearing you all singing the bargain shoppers blues?” Karen laughed as she and Alice arrived.

 

“You are darling.” Mandy rolled her eyes. “I’m pooped.”

 

“That’s the trouble with you Brits…No stamina.” Alice teased.

 

“Darling I was going to say how stunning you looked, but I’m thinking now I might change my mind.” Mandy shook her head.

 

“I apologise.” Alice kissed her friend on the cheek.

 

“So are we eating?” Karen checked her pager.

 

“When the others fight their way here.” Juliette looked to see if she could see them coming…”In a hurry?”

 

“No looks like she’ll be a few hours yet.”

 

“You wait till it’s you having the contractions and YOUR doctor nips out for lunch.” Carina smiled.

 

“Damn straight.” Mandy laughed.  “So where is my darling daughter?”

 

“I left her with Ama, Annie and Charlotte, diving into a clothes store.”

 

“Oh joy, they may be some time,” Mandy said as she closed her eyes.

 

“So gloves purchased?” Caroline asked.

 

“Yes.” Cari nodded. “Now I just need the final fittings for my dresses.”

 

“Well I know you and Judy will both look stunning.” Caroline smiled.

 

“What about the proud mom?” Alice asked.

 

“Well I was hoping to maybe get you to make my dresses for me?” Juliette spoke.

 

“Tell me what styles you like at the shoot and I’ll consider it.” Alice looked at her friend. “Especially if my name should somehow appear with regards to your dresses in the society pages.”

 

“It’s a deal.” Juliette laughed.

 

“And here they are,” Carina said as the other four joined them.  “You survived then?”

 

“I don’t see what the fuss is all about,” Angel said as she sat down, “it was just like a hockey match at Roedean.”

 

“I thought I had seen tough before,” Annie said as she sat down, “but seeing these two go through a rack of dresses, muscling their way in – I wonder if we need to start a football team at St Angela’s.”

 

“Oh?  Explain please,” Caroline said.

 

“There was this dress in my size which I liked,” Ama said “and very reasonable.”

 

“This from the girl who bought a Mary Quant top for two dollars,” Annie said with a laugh.

 

“She did?”

 

“I did,” Ama said proudly, “but another woman who it would never fit would not let me have it, so I took what I felt was a positive step.”

 

“And that was?”

 

“She started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in her mother tongue,” Charlotte said, “while staring wide eyed at this woman.  I swear I have never seen someone drop and cover so fast before.”

 

“And so I bought the dress,” Ama said as she took a silver mini dress from a bag,

 

“What were you talking about anyway?”

 

“Debutante balls, on which subject…”

 

“I got them, mama,” Angel said as she raised her bag.

 

“I’m just glad Ama will never be a debutante.” Caroline said as she looked proudly at her daughter.

 

“Who says? A lot can change in four years.” Alice looked at the tall British woman and shook her head.

 

“I do… No way I’ll ever be prominent enough socially that Ama will get invited.”

 

“As I said never say never.” Alice smiled.

 

“I even missed my high school prom, let alone being a deb.” Juliette leaned back.

 

“Why did you miss it Ju? … Working?” Alice asked.

 

“Nope, no boy asked me.”

 

“What?” Caroline looked round in surprise, “But you were gorgeous.”

 

“And already reasonably famous.” Juliette paused. “I think that intimidated the boys at school and none of them dared ask me…so I ended up watching movies with mom on prom night.”

 

“Oh that’s terrible Ju.” Alice shook her head.

 

“Please,” Ama said, “what is Prom Night?”

 

“Excuse for a posh party,” Carina said, “as you’ll find out soon enough.”

 

“Enough,” Karen said, “let’s eat…”

 

4 pm

The Richmond Mansion

 

“Welcome back.” Vanessa said as she pressed warm and welcoming mugs of coffee into the hands of the returning shoppers.

 

“NEVER AGAIN!” Jan groaned.

 

“That was HELL!” Sandy said as she slumped onto a stool.

 

“Listen to them, they still sound as fresh as daisies.” Heather listened to the younger women comparing their purchases in the drawing room.

 

“I don’t know how they damn well do it?” Barbara shook her head, “and I used to think Oxford Street was bad.”

 

“Well you did only pay $60 for those $350 boots Barb.” Heather pointed out.

 

“True, but were even they worth all that pushing and shoving and bad language…?”

 

“Plus what the other shoppers said and did to us.” Joanne laughed.

 

“Okay I did get a bit of sales fever myself.” Barbara admitted with a smile.

 

“So any other bargains?” Vanessa asked.

 

“Jan managed to literally grab a pure wool coat out of an associate’s hands.” Sandy looked up from her coffee.

 

“What style?” Vanessa asked.

 

“ A trench…”

 

“What else would an FBI agent wear?” Heather interrupted Janice.

 

“As I was saying…it’s a trench that I can wear over a skirt and boots, and look FABULOUS!” Jan laughed.

 

“Plus it’s practical.” Sandy nodded. “I have one I got in college I still wear each winter, they never go out of style.”

 

“Is this okay?” Doc came into the kitchen in a tight but chic white cocktail dress.

 

“I didn’t see you buy that Anna?” Jan looked closely.

 

“Is it…well too grown up?” Anna looked unsure.

 

“Doc by Christmas you’ll be 15, I think it’s okay.” Jo hugged her younger friend.

 

“What did you pay for it?” Heather asked.

 

“$29.95…down from $150.”

 

“Well I think you ought to be glad you saw it before I did.” Heather laughed.

 

“You ought to see what some of the others got?” Anna smiled happily at the words of approval.

 

“I think that’s our invitation to a fashion show.” Sandy laughed as she picked up another coffee and led the ladies towards the drawing room.

 

As they walked in, Pepsi was walking round in a pair of red leather trousers.  “Yeah, they fit,” Nikki said.

 

“At that price they had better,” Pepsi said.

 

“What did you pay?”

 

“$35,” Pepsi said as Jan looked at the label.

 

“For a pair of Julien MacDonald trousers?  Girl, you did good there.”

 

“Especially with those ankle boots,” Sandy said as she looked on.

 

“Does the top fit, darling,” Barbara said as she looked at Jeannie.

 

“It all does,” she called out as she crossed her legs, the slit skirt falling to show the over the knee suede boots and the top showing her chest.

 

“Parties only,” Barbara said as she sat down.  “What about you Nikki?”

 

“Like it,” she said as she put on her grey leather jacket and posed with it.  “$25.”

 

“Nice,” Jo said, “but where’s Becky?”

 

“Right here.”

 

They all turned to see Becky walk in, wearing a black lace cocktail dress with a black bra underneath, a skirt that barely covered her upper legs, and black suede stilettos.

 

“Holy…  Girl, when are you planning to wear that,” Jeannie asked.

 

“New Year – think it might work.”

 

“I think your mom will have a fit,” Sandy said.  “Remind me to be there for it.”

 

 

10 pm

Beverley

 

“Can I ask something Juliette?” Dominique asked as they sat up drinking cocoa.  Ama was asleep, and the others had already gone up for the night.

 

“Sure.” Juliette replied.

 

“You know you were saying earlier about not going to your prom because no boy asked?”

 

“It’s true.”

 

“And I know what happened with that mafia bastard.”

 

Juliette nodded as Dominique took a sip from her cup.

 

“But do you ever date?”

 

“Not for a long while.” Juliette sighed.  “Why do you ask?”

 

Dominique put her head on her hand as she thought.  “Well, I figured out that Diana probably hates men on principal, and Sandy is a lesbian, but…”

 

“But?”

 

“Well I’ve never even heard anything about your dating past except a vague rumour you were once engaged.’

 

“That is a true story.  Lasted exactly 28 days.”

 

“So don’t you…?”

 

“I could ask the same of you Dominique you know.” Juliette moved her glasses on her nose.

 

“Yeah, I suppose you could.  Well I was moving about all the time on business…”

 

“Well I’m in the same business remember.”

 

“But I have had the odd little fling here and there, you seem to have nothing poor thing.”

 

“I have a hard job trusting men…and before you ask yes I’m totally straight, unlike my daughter and your roommate…But I just never seem to meet the right kind of man, other then I guess one…”

 

“Father Alex?”

 

Juliette blushed and shook her head.  “Does it show that much?”

 

“Pretty much Ju.”

 

“Well if he WASN’T a priest he’d be perfect.”

 

“Well I’m sure there are other men out there like him.”

 

“If there are I never meet them.” Juliette stretched and yawned.

 

“Never say never – isn’t that what Alice said today?”

 

“Hoist by my own petard,” Juliette said as she looked at her watch.  “Come on – we need to get some sleep.  Alice is expecting us at ten tomorrow.”

 

“Someday we’ll find Mister Right for you,” Dom said as she took the mugs, “some day…”

 

Saturday 29th November

11 am

Franklin Park

 

“How long has it been since we gathered to do something like this,” Karen said as she sat in the chair, her hair having been teased and blow dried.”

 

“A catalogue shoot?  Years and years,” Mandy said.  “I hope I still have the stamina for…”

 

“Well my little darlings here we are again.” Jack swept into the trailer that was doubling as a dressing room.

 

“JACK!” All five women shouted as they clasped their bodies to cover them.

 

“How the hell do you always manage to wander in when I’m undressed?” Alice glared at the photographer. “Just remember technically today you are working for ME!”

 

“Ho Hum.” Jack picked some imaginary lint from his jacket. “Just remember darling on that set I’m the one can make you look great…or awful…”

 

“He’s got you there Bats.” Juliette laughed.

 

“Now my angels - all of you except Caroline at some time early in your super careers did catalogue work, remember the secret is in, out, shake it all about…”

 

“Eh?” Caroline looked puzzled.

 

“Don’t linger darling, he means in the outfit, out there for Jack to photo, and shake yourself up to give him just the poses he wants quickly.” Karen explained. “We each need to do at least 12 outfits today.”

 

“So chop chop ladies.” Jack made his exit.

 

“Alright pants and tops girls, the outfits have your names on and are on the rack.” One of Alice’s assistants shouted from the doorway.

 

“You know they are all determined to enjoy themselves today at my expense.” Alice said crossly, “The Boss reduced to a humble model.”

 

“Well as the people say I guess we better get to bloody work.” Caroline slipped into her outfit.  The v-necked cashmere sweater fitted her like a glove, as did the light tan trousers.

 

“Can I have a model please?” Jack shouted.

 

“You’d not know what to damn well do with her if you got her.” Mandy shouted back.

 

“I’m on my way Jack.” Caroline called out as the hair and makeup people did their final checks.

 

“I’d better get ready,” Karen said as she slipped on her black bootleg trousers, and was helped into the smock top.

 

“NEXT!”

 

“You’re up,” Caroline said as she came in, and Karen went out. 

 

1.30 pm

 

“This is fucking exhausting!” Mandy put her feet up on a spare chair as she tried to eat some lunch. “I’d forgotten how damn hard catalogue shoots are.”

 

“The clothes though are gorgeous.” Caroline snatched a bite from her sandwich.

 

“Yeah I think it’s Bats best ever collection.” Juliette smiled as she was helped into a figure hugging strapless evening dress. “One of these please Alice.” Juliette pointed to the dress she wore as she ran out and Alice ran in.

 

“Jack’s turned into a slavedriver.” Alice complained.

 

“Then fire him.”

 

“I can’t.”

 

“Why?” Mandy questioned.

 

“He won’t let me…I tried.”

 

“Oh dear.” Caroline laughed.

 

“Seriously though I grabbed a look at some of the pictures, you are ALL doing an amazing job making my clothes look so great.”

 

2 pm

 

“So this is where it all happens,” Angel said as she and Cari arrived at the shoot.

 

“It is indeed – a scene of controlled and sometimes not so controlled chaos,” Carina said as they left the car and walked over to the caravans.  As they got closer, they saw Karen coming out of one of them, adjusting the plunging neckline on her black velvet dress as an assistant touched up her make up.

 

“Hey Angel, Hey Cari.” Karen waved as she ran by, “Your moms are inside changing…go inside.”

 

“Oh Doctor darling I’m waiting.” Jack called out.

 

“Coming oh Lord and Master…”

 

“Hello Mummy.” Angel greeted Mandy as they stepped inside.

 

“This looks like that maternity wear shoot I shot.” Carina laughed at the near panic prevailing inside.

 

“I’d forgotten how bloody hectic these shoots are.” Mandy kissed her daughter on the cheek.  “We should be finished in a little while darling.”

 

“Are you two the teen models?” one of Alice’s assistants came running up and looked at them.   Carina was wearing a red cowl necked sweater and grey pants with black ankles boots, while Angel was wearing a blue checked blouse over a black jumper,  jeans and knee length black suede boots.

 

“No.” Angel looked amused at the thought of her modeling.

 

“Don’t tell me those bitches haven’t turned up yet?” Alice cried out as she pulled a dress over her head.

 

“Not yet Boss.” The assistant looked panicked.

 

“Okay executive decision.” Alice stood with her hands on her hips, “You two into hair and makeup…NOW!”

 

“What?” Carina asked.

 

“Please Cari I need teenage models, and you are great, if a little short.”

 

“I’ve never modeled though.” Angel spluttered. “Mummy?”

 

“Is she okay for you Alice?” Mandy asked.

 

“She’s very like you darling.” Alice smiled.

 

“What’s going on?” Juliette came in pulling her last dress off.

 

“I’ve been asked to work.” Cari smiled, “So has Angel.”

 

“The damn teenagers have not turned up Ju…  Carina will just have to do her best with the sizes of the clothes.” Alice looked unhappy.

 

“Well, put Cari in the skirts and Angel into the pants, and when it comes to the evening gowns, we’ll need to pin them for Cari.”

 

Alice looked at them, and said “Yeah – that’ll work.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

 

“Mummy?” Angel asked again.

 

“Go with Cari and she’ll show you where to go.” Mandy hugged her daughter, “I know you’ve never wanted to model, but it’s all hands to the pumps I’m afraid.”

 

“Here, come with me Angel and I’ll explain how it works.” Carina pulled the English girl after her. “When are we up Alice?” she shouted back.

 

“About 40 minutes Cari.”

 

“Okay we’ll do our best.”

 

The girls ran to the next caravan as Caroline came back.

 

“Hey Caroline.” Carina waved at her bemused friend.

 

“What the…”

 

“Don’t even ask Caroline.” Alice looked to the heavens.

 

“I thought there were two other girls coming?”

 

“So did I!”  Alice’s scream could be heard across the field.

 

 

 

2.45 pm

 

“Well done ladies, you have earned your rest now,” Jack said as he looked into the caravan.

 

“JACK!!!”

 

“Oh come on,” he said as Karen and Juliette grabbed robes and put them on,” so where are these darling professional teenage brats you promised me?”

 

“Did someone call?”

 

Jack turned round to see Carina and Angel standing behind him.  Carina was wearing a soft black leather jacket over a knee length jersey dress, while Angel was wearing a black silk blouse, open at the neck, with a blazer and tight pants.

 

“Oh ho,” Jack said as he raised an eye brow, “these are not the models I was expecting.  Carina, sweetheart, how long has it been?”

 

“You gave me lollipops the last time we met,” Carina said with a smile, “this is Angel Fitzstuart.”

 

“Errr.  Hi?” Angel said as she looked nervously at the photographer.

 

“Hmmm – the classic English beauty if ever there was one.  Now where did you find a rose so sweet in this land, Alice?”

 

“I sent for the real thing – Angel is Mandy’s daughter?”

 

“An amateur?  Darling, I love you and Mandy dearly, but is this the right place for an amateur to be?”

 

“Excuse me?”  Alice came down from the caravan and looked Jack square in the eye.  “Caroline is an amateur, do you say the same thing to her?”

 

“Well no, but…”

 

“The rest of us are part timers – would you say that to us?”

 

“My dear Alice…”

 

“So if I say another daughter of another very old and very dear friend is what I want Jack Linklater, what would be the measured, responsible and above all correct response to give to me?”

 

Jack looked at Angel, and then turned her head to the side.

 

“I’m sure I can weave magic,” he said with a grin.

 

“You did with Caroline and Karen – I’m sure you can do it again,” Alice said as she gave him a kiss on the cheek.

 

“Oh all right – but I want a four way picture before we finish today.  Tell her what she needs to do, Cari darling.”

 

“Look directly at Jack, smile and pose as naturally as you can – and I’ll be with you every step of the way,” Carina said as they walked behind Jack.

 

“Good news girls,” Alice said as she walked back in, “Coats next!”

 

 

 

11 am Local time

Suva, Fiji

 

“Hey Kate what are you doing here?” Abigail said as she greeted the blonde superstar, “I thought I saw your pictures done weeks ago?” 

 

“You did Stick.”  Kate Upton was wearing a pair of shorts over a blue swimsuit, her ample chest visible under it.

 

“You know I never feel my name is more appropriate then when I’m standing next to you.”

 

“Hey if you’ve got them FLAUNT ‘EM!”

 

“One day I’m getting a boob job and then you’ll see competition.”

 

“Anyway I am on vacation and I heard you were working so I thought I’d drop by.”

 

“That was nice Kate.” Diana walked over and kissed her on the cheek.

 

“Hi Countess.”

 

“Hi back to you.” Diana looked up at the tropical sky. “Did I hear you say you were on vacation? This is so beautiful compared to the weather when we left New York.”

 

“Yeah,” Kate said, “I’m working on my tan, and trying not to think I’m supposed to be in St Petersburg next week.”

 

“I don’t blame you Kate.” Abby smiled.

 

“So who’s the other model on the shoot Abs?”

 

“Nadja…Rick’s had her running in and out of the water the last 20 minutes and he’s still not happy.”

 

“That’s Richard for you.”

 

“We are at the Five Princes if you want to drop over tonight for drinks Kate.” Diana said as she peered through her sunglasses.

 

“Where are you staying Kate?” Abigail slipped off her robe to reveal the stunning sky blue two piece swimsuit she had on underneath.

 

“We are just up there a bit,” Kate said as she turned and pointed up the beach, “a friend let me borrow her villa.”

 

“Very nice.” Diana smiled.

 

“I’ll kill him…” Nadja said as she started to dry herself off.  “I swear that bastard only had me doing that to put on a show for the locals… hey Kate.” Nadja shook hands, “I’d hug but I’m all wet.”

 

“I can see sweetie.”

 

“You’re up next Miss de Ros.” One of Rick’s assistants called Abby.

 

“Time to go pose I suppose.” Abby stepped out in the sun. “Oh shit he’s setting up on those rocks, what’s the betting he wants to fry me in this sun laying on the bastards.”

 

“Hey just think Stick…you could be in St Petersburg.” Kate laughed.

 

4 pm

Franklin Park

 

"Just relax Angel." Cari whispered, "Even Jack doesn't bite, and I'm the one teetering on these rotten stilt heels."

"Smile girls." Jack called out.

"She's trying Jack." Cari answered. "Just have some fun Angel."

"I'm trying."

"Well let's try a few things…should I tell you the filthiest joke I know."

"No!" Angel laughed.

"Oh that was lovely darling." Jack called back.

"See you relaxed, Jack got some shots."

"Okay I'll try and feel more comfortable."

"Just think that out there is a guy with the hugest…"

"CARI!"

"Wonderful Angel." Jack shouted.

"I'll have you know I'm still a virgin Carina." Angel smiled, "And I know what you are doing…thank you."

"Just have fun like I said."

 

 

 

Sunday 30th November

4 pm

Beverley

 

“It was good of you to invite us over, Ju – it means we get to see Mandy and the family again.”

 

“My pleasure.  So how was Thanksgiving on Cape Cod?” Juliette asked as her guests warmed themselves in front of the blazing hot log fire.

 

“Great…other then a couple of residual nightmares after what happened at The Arabian.” Rachel answered.

 

“Yeah, I had a couple myself.  Did you dare Black Friday?”

 

“Oh God no.” Rachel laughed. “According to Judy though you guys had fun.”

 

“One way of putting it. My British guests wanted to go out though…”

 

“And now we know better.” Mandy spoke as she and Will brought a tray full of mugs and a coffee pot out from the kitchen.

 

“It’s a pity Caroline and the others had to head off,” Juliette said, “But Annie has to be back at school tomorrow.”

 

“So what did you find to amuse yourself yesterday and today?” George McNally asked as he accepted a mug of coffee.

 

“Oh George did you have to ask that?” Mandy groaned as she slumped into one of the armchairs.

 

“We were working.” Juliette smiled weakly, “Alice’s new catalogue, we had to work into today getting it all done.”

 

“We even had to rope Cari and my daughter in as extra models.”

 

“I thought we were coming over for a rest.” Will laughed, “I suspect now Mandy is actually looking forward to getting home for a real break.”

 

“Oh dear.” Rachel giggled.  “She should have said it was a working holiday.”

 

“One day – that’s what Alice said, one freaking day…”

 

George looked round.  “And where is…”

 

“She’s here sir.” David brought the teenagers into the room. “Mr. and Mrs. McNally may I present my sister Angelica?”

 

“Lovely to meet you.” Rachel kissed the young girl.

 

“So enjoying America Angelica?” George asked.

 

“Mainly, and it’s Angel please.”

 

“We are George and Rachel.” George said as he shook her hand.

 

“Mainly?”

 

“It was not the most pleasant thing having to help Mummy yesterday – I don’t particularly like having my photo taken.”

 

Rachel smiled and said “So did you get to do some of the touristy things in Boston?”

 

“Yes.” Angel smiled. “Carina took me out yesterday morning and we went to Boston Common and some of the old buildings.”

 

“Have you been to New York?”

 

“No, but according to Mummy we are coming to New York for the New Year?”

 

“Oh yes for Shirley’s party in her new apartment.” Rachel nodded.

 

“I’m hoping Cari and Judy will show me some sights then.”

 

“It’s a date – we’ll go ice skating as well.”

 

“So when do you head back?”

 

“Tomorrow, unfortunately – David and Judy drive back tonight.”

 

“Exams – blech,” David said with real passion.

 

“Only three weeks, my son – endure…”

 

Monday 1st December

8.50 am

St Angela’s

 

"Back to Monday morning math." Jeannie said as she wheeled herself away from her locker.

"I know – don’t remind me." Nikki looked only half awake as they made their way down the corridor.

"Are we keeping you awake Nik?" Pepsi asked.

"I just had a late night last night."

"Oh and what was keeping you up…"

"Or were you keeping him up?" Doc interrupted Pepsi.

"Hah di hah." Nikki looked sharply at her friend.

"Well at least I know you didn't HAVE to go to a damn election rally like I did." Becca eased herself into her seat. "So what happened?"

"Nell and Ally gave me a ride home from The Hampton's…they made a couple of stops along the way and we didn't get home till one this morning."

"What kind of stops?" Jeannie asked innocently.

"Don't be naive Jeans…" Nikki's voice trailed off as Annie entered the room.

"Good Morning Miss Kelly." the girls stood and said in unison.

"Good Morning Girls…Now after our Thanksgiving break, who can tell me the basic principals of equations?”

 

“Oh joy,” Jeannie said as she buried her head in her hands.

 

 

 

 

9 am

FBI Field Office

 

Janice Carter laughed at the construction worker’s whistle as she wiggled her way to the elevators; she even blew him a kiss. Working out at the gym had her figure in wonderful shape; her curves were now an eye-catching 36-24-35, and they were displayed to full advantage in the deep, dark blue suit with the tiny mini skirt she’d had Cathy make up for her in Hong Kong.

 

All in all life was pretty good at the moment, she had Adam to regularly share her bed, a lovely daughter, great friends, and four million dollars in her secret bank account.

 

Juliette had given her a ‘suggestion’ online that she started steering the investigation towards the subject of why certain pictures had been defaced in the robbery at The Arabian. Of course unofficially Jan knew it was to highlight the fact they were fakes, but since officially as a member of the FBI she should have no knowledge as to motive she had been trying to work out how to put clues in her and Adam’s path.

 

Eventually she had worked it into a discussion they had over a drink at Thanksgiving.  She just wondered how far he might have taken it.

 

At her floor Janice got off the elevator and slowly walked towards the Task Force offices. The heels of her stilettos made a tap, tap sound as she collected her mail and removed her suit jacket.

 

“Oh my God you look amazing Janice,” Tom Callaghan looked at his sexy subordinate. “How the hell do you afford clothes like that?”

 

“If it was real I couldn’t Tom…Here check the label.” Janice smiled.

 

“Made in Hong Kong,” he read and laughed, “Okay that’s how you afford it, you know it’s only going to increase the pressure from my wife to take her to shop in Hong Kong?

 

“Remember Janice has no real vices other then clothes.” Adam came in with a thick document under his arm.

 

“That looks long and complicated Ball.” Tom Callaghan switched to his official role.

 

“It is,” Adam said as he set it down, “far too complicated for my little brain.”

 

“So what is it?” Callaghan asked.

 

“Well Jan set me thinking that maybe there was something special about those paintings that got defaced.”

 

“I did?” Jan asked disingenuously.

 

“Yes, and for the sake of your reputation I’ll not say where we were talking…Anyway I got some of the brains from the crime lab in Washington to look, and this is their analysis.” He held the document up.

 

“So what does it say?” Jan asked.

 

“Well they aren’t sure totally, but you know these guys always leave themselves an out, but they are 90% sure at least a couple of those defaced pictures were fakes.”

 

“Fakes?  I saw the catalogue – that big block print was valued in the millions.  It even had documentation as proof of authenticity.  If that was a fake…”

 

“Were any of the pictures defaced real?”

 

“Some of them, but the most expensive have raised red flags in their minds.”

 

Tom sat back and put his fingers under his chin.  “All right, talk to the show organizers, see if they can get you the documentation on the pieces defaced.  They still need to confirm the ones taken anyway, so that’s two things to…”

 

“Mister Callaghan?”

 

The three of them looked to the door to see a tall man in a tailored suit, pale lilac shirt and red tie standing there.  He had short black hair and wore wire rimmed specs.

 

“I’m Tom Callaghan.  You are?”

 

“StJohn Stevens – Lloyds of London have hired me to investigate the losses at the recent raid on the art show at the Arabian?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Tom said as he looked at the memo on his desk, “Langley said you would call to see us.  Agents Janice Carter and Adam Ball, Pussycat Task Force.”

 

“Charmed,” Stevens said as he shook their hands.  “I will be spending time this week interviewing witnesses, but I hope we can work together to get to the bottom of this unfortunate business.”

 

“What is your particular specialty, Mr. Stevens?”

 

“It’s Doctor Stevens,” he said with a smile, “but that’s not important.  Modern Art, Agent Ball – hence my assignment to this case.”

 

“You two have your orders,” Tom said as Janice and Adam left the room.  “All right, DOCTOR Stevens,” they heard Tom say, “let’s talk…”

 

“Wonderful, an insurance agent to babysit,” Adam said as he sat down.

 

“Oh I don’t know – he seemed cute in an old world way.”

 

“Jan?”

 

“Oh stop worrying Adam,” Jan said with a smile, “you’re the one for me…”

 

“Why thank you dear lady,” Adam said with a bow.  “Anyway, join me for lunch today?”

 

“For a coffee maybe – Murder Row doesn’t appeal to me today.”

 

“I was thinking of a hot dog?”

 

“You might interest me,” Jan said with a smile.

 

 

2 pm

 

“Who is that with Tom,” Adam said as he and Jan returned to the office.  The woman with him in his office was slim, and sat with poise and elegance.

 

“Adam, Janice, get in here please,” Tom said as he came to his door.  The woman stood as they came in, Tom closing the door behind them.

 

“Agents Ball and Carter, this is Inspector Jeanne Marais, she’s seconded from the Paris police to Interpol.”

 

“It’s nice to meet you.” Janice said as they shook hands.

 

“Likewise.” Adam also said as they shook hands.

 

“Inspector Marais is a specialist in art fraud.” Callaghan explained. “That report you asked for triggered some bells somewhere.”

 

“In Paris to be exact,” the inspector spoke English with a very slight French accent.

 

“Bells?  Why was that?”

 

Jeanne smiled as she said “It was the first evidence we have had that a tip passed on to us in the spring might be true.”

 

“That what might be true?” Janice asked as she checked out the blonde Frenchwoman’s casually elegant designer suit.

 

“That there is an organized ring somehow passing fakes off as real 20th century works by the great artists.”

 

“Is that possible?” Ball asked as he checked out the inspectors’ legs.

 

“We didn’t think so and we wrote the story off, but it seems these pictures were not what they were thought to be at all.”

 

Tom sat back and looked at his two agents.  “Is that what had your superiors rush you here?”

 

The Inspector nodded. “I came straight here from the airport.”

 

“Do you have anyway to stay yet?” Adam asked.

 

“Well I’m hoping an old school friend can put me up, she works at the UN.”

 

“Would her name perhaps be de Ros?” Jan laughed.

 

“Yes…but how did you know?”

 

“She’s a friend of mine, along with Diana and Abigail.”

 

“Oh dear,” the Frenchwoman laughed, “It really is a small world.”

 

“Tell me,” Adam said, “do you know an insurance agent called StJohn Stevens?”

 

“I am aware of him,” Jeanne said, “and I do not particularly like him.  I presume Lloyds has assigned him to this case?”

 

“His credentials do say that,” Tom said, “but personally, I find him – difficult to like.”

 

Jeanne nodded.  “I too find him – difficult.  If we are working the same case, then I shall be professional, but do not ask me to enjoy the experience.”

 

“Understood, Inspector.  We can offer you space here to set up your investigation, if that would help?”

 

“It would, and I gratefully accept,” Jeanne said.  “But if you will excuse me, I must see if I can contact Natasha.  Is there a telephone I may use?”

 

“Of course – this way,” Adam said as he opened the door, Jan raising an eyebrow.

 

“A hint of jealousy, Jan?”

 

Jan merely smiled as she left the office…

 

1 pm GMT

Earl’s Court, London

 

“I have seen more glamorous places,” Diana said as she and Abigail got out of the car, Diana wearing a blouse, jacket and trousers, and Abigail in an open necked dress and low shoes.

 

“Well, I am assured the inside is much nicer, Mamma,” Abigail said as they passed through the security check and made their way to the backstage area of the arena.

 

“Ms de Ros?  This way please,” the floor runner said as they were walked to the models area.

 

“You came straight from the airport Stick?” Behati Prinsloo said as she looked at her tired friend.

 

“Yeah,” Abby said as she stretched and yawned, “I was in Fiji for the weekend shooting Sports Illustrated, now here for this, then home to the peace and quiet of New York.”

 

“Your first circumnavigation Abs?”

 

“Yeah.”  Abby sat down and opened a bottle of water.

 

“The first one’s always the worst,” Behati said with a smile.

 

“I see we are among the first arrivals.” Diana spoke up.

 

“Yeah the planes are spitting models out from all over the world I guess, a few of us got here early.”

 

“We met Kate Upton in Fiji but I think she’s in Russia this week.”

 

“So I heard – I hope it’s warm enough for her there,” Behati said as an assistant came up.

 

“Okay Abigail can we try out your wings please?” she said as she held out a bag.

 

“Okay Abigail, now let’s see you are wearing this outfit, can you slip it on and we can fix the wings etc.” The show director fussed.

 

Abigail took the bag and went behind the curtains, changing into the white teddy, the long white gloves, and the stilt heels.

 

“Can we see that please?”

 

Abigail stepped out.

 

“Now we attach the angel wings and wow!”

 

Abby smiled as she posed, the wings rising above her head.

 

 “It needs slightly tightening here.” An assistant started to pin the outfit.

 

“Can we make it shorter to show those amazing legs?” someone else shouted.

 

“Try this necklace on, and the earrings and bracelet.” Someone thrust the pieces at Abby to put on

 

“Walk for me darling.” The show director asked.

 

Abby obliged up and down the fitting room.

 

“How tall are you now Abs?” Behati shouted.

 

“Six one, and hopefully I grow no more now.” Abby shouted back as the various assistants fussed over the outfit.

 

“Countess,” the director found Diana, “I wish to ask a favour of you?”

 

“Oh – and that is?”

 

I know we said more covered up, but I really think she can do a bra and panty set as well.”

 

Diana turned and looked at her daughter.

 

“Please Mama.” Abby mouthed the words.

 

“You do realize my daughter is just 16?”

 

“Yes, and we will probably get complaining letters, but there is a black lacy bra and panties that, if we combine them with black gloves and thigh high boots, she will absolutely rock.”

 

“Can I see it on her please?” Diana sighed.

 

A few minutes later when her daughter emerged, Diana had to admit that it was actually better then the bikini’s she’d been wearing in Fiji.

 

“It is no worse than what you wore for the calendar, I suppose?”

 

“Oh I’ve seen that – John did a fantastic job on that?”

 

“You did,” Diana said as she looked at Behati.

 

“They’ve gone global Countess.”

 

“Well Mama?”  Abby looked at her mother as she was her eyes moving up and down.  Finally Diana shook her head and said “Oh I guess so…”

 

Mother and daughter then had the strange experience of hugging while assistants tried to do the fitting of the outfit.

 

 

 

An hour later Abby, Diana, Behati and Karlie Kloss had managed to escape the madhouse and were drinking coffee in a little bistro.

 

“Well at least two looks are better than one.” Abby smiled.

 

“Most rookies get two at the most,” Karlie spoke with the voice of experience.

 

“Well if I get three next year I will know I’ve arrived.”

 

“Arrived?” Behati spluttered, “Abigail de Ros, just over a year ago you were a lanky school girl from New York.”

 

“And?”

 

“Since then you’ve done magazine covers and spreads, walked major shows, appeared on chat shows, have a huge perfume contract, did Sports Illustrated and now VS…I think we can say you’ve safely arrived already Stick.”

 

Abby smiled as she looked at her mother.

 

“Well I think we need go catch up with our luggage and sleep.” Diana yawned.

 

“Sounds like it.” Karlie smiled.

 

“See you both at rehearsals in the morning.” Behati called out as the de Ros’s left to find a cab to take them to The Savoy.

 

 

 

Tuesday 2nd December

10 am GMT

Earl’s Court

 

“Well you look more human today.” Behati smiled as her friend entered the back stage area with her mother.

 

“Is that you Abigail?” the shows creative director Sophia Neophitou asked.  “You’ve grown even since we did the casting thing, what are you 6’ 1” now?”

 

“That’s about right.” Abby cast her mind back to the casting call, even though she was pretty sure of a place according to Missy it had still been a worry that she might not make the grade.

 

“Your legs just struck me as amazing at the audition.”

 

“Well I’m not Alexandra Robertson, with her 47" legs, but they are 40 or 41 inches.” Abby smiled proudly.

 

“Longer then mine.” Behati laughed.

 

“So any tips?” Abby asked.

 

“Go out there and look like you are having the time of your life, you’re free to move about a bit, and just work the outfit so it looks as sexy as hell.” Behati tried to encourage her American friend.

 

“Hey Candace,” Behati called over her fellow Afrikaans speaker.

 

“If you two are going to chat, English please? “Abby pleaded.

 

“Candace, Behati, take Abigail up and down the runway a few times and show her how we work this show.” Sophia asked.

 

“Hips moving, and free to do things like blow kisses, etc.” Candace laughed.

 

“Hey you’ve been practicing Stick.” Behati smiled.

 

“Remember the musical acts play while we walk, so rehearsals are serious.” Cara said as she arrived.

 

“Hey Cara how many tweets did you send me while I was in Fiji?” Abby looked at her friend.

 

“Hey you weren’t victimized Abby, I was tweeting everyone doing the show.”

 

“Well, Miss Cara Delevingne,” Abby said with her hand on her hips, “you had me splitting my sides with laughter while that sadist Rick had me stretched out for 45 minutes on some rock in Fiji and getting more annoyed because I kept looking at your sends.”

 

“Whoops, sorry Darling.”

 

“It’s all right,” Abby said with a laugh, “it made him laugh in the end as well.”

 

Gradually as actual rehearsal time approached the models all appeared and they were briefed on the run through, getting their walks timed and perfected as the producer started to get worried.

 

Abby didn’t mind rehearsals it was a chance to chat and catch up with friends. Diana found time to read as she kept an eye out for her daughter.

 

“Good book?”

 

Diana glanced to her side to look at the small brunette sitting next to her.

 

“Penelope?  What brings you to the show?”

 

“One of the charities we support are involved in a meeting next door.  I heard the rehearsal was going on, and used my considerable charm and wit to get in.”

 

“Truthfully?”

 

“All right – I am at a meeting, but I saw you come in, so I slipped behind stage to say hello.  Home after this?”

 

“Tomorrow – she needs at least one more night’s sleep.”

 

“Well, I will see you in a few weeks time,” Penny said as she waved, “have fun…”

 

 

 

 

8 pm

The Richmond Mansion

 

“It sounds as if you had a fantastic holiday,” Juliette said as Sandy poured the wine.

 

“So,” Heather said, “what is this I hear that there are two new faces on the team Janice?”

 

“Two special investigators – StJohn Stevens from Lloyds, and Jeanne Marais from Interpol.”

 

"And your opinion on them both is what?" Juliette asked.

"He's smooth, he's charming, sophisticated." Janice smiled. "She on the other hand, and apologies to Diana if she was here, is way too self assured, like she knows she's fantastic and uses it."

“Sounds as if either could be trouble,” Juliette said.

 

"Well until both are out of town I suggest we lay so low we could be shadows." Janice looked serious.

"I agree totally." Juliette nodded.

"Well I have Madame's place to finish and several other projects to start." Sandy sipped her wine.

"I just want them to find this art ring." Heather looked peeved.

"They've really put your nose out of joint haven't they lover?"

"What do you think?" Heather snorted.

"Is that why the huge parcel from Amazon today?"

"Yes, reading, so I know round the 20th century better."

 

“That reminds me,” Sandy said as she picked up an envelope, “this arrived for you today.”

 

“Oh – London postmark,” Heather said as she opened and read it.

 

“Heather?”

 

“Can you spare me next week, Sandy?  I’ve been asked by one Lily Cole to help her with a film she is making next week at Buckingham Palace.”

 

“All expenses paid?”

 

Heather nodded.  “I can hook up with Charlotte over there and look at their current set up as well.”

 

“Sounds good – all right, we’ll cope for a week.  When will you fly out?”

 

“Saturday if that’s okay.  I meet Lily Sunday afternoon then.”

 

“See what you can find out from that side about this Stevens character as well,” Juliette said.  “I think we’ll all be meeting him soon.”

 

7 pm GMT

Earl’s Court

 

“All right ladies – final rehearsal before we get ready!”

 

“Oh Goddess, is that Robbie Williams?” Abby said as she stood with her mother.

 

Diana looked over at the small man and said “I believe so, yes – but you would know more about him than I do, Abby darling.”

 

Abby nodded as he came over and said “Would you by Abigail de Ros?”

 

“I am,” Abby said with a giggle as he kissed her hand.

 

“I’ll be singing for one of your parts – I look forward to seeing you out there.”

 

“Abby, we need you for the profile shoot,” one of the assistant directors said as he came over, and took her to one side.

 

“Excuse me,” Diana said as she went to watch Abby, sitting in her robe as Jeanne Beckmann sat down.

 

“Ready?”

 

“As I ever will be,” Abby said with a smile.

 

Jeanne pointed to the cameraman and waited as Abby and Diana watched some of her school and family photos come up.

 

“In the last year the name of Abigail de Ros had become one of the best known in the fashion world, and that year is topped by her appearance for the first time in this show.  Abby, tell us what first attracted you to modeling?”

 

“I guess I grew up amongst models, and they have been my inspiration Jeanne.  I would never have dreamed this possible without the help of Juliette Huntingdown, Mary Thomas and my own dear mama.”

 

“You’ve also helped to introduce the world to Jeannie Brewster, and become an inspiration for many who feel they have to fight to be recognized.  Does that scare you?”

 

“Not as much as the thought of tonight does.  But if I have helped one person to feel better, and to feel they can follow their dreams, then I’m glad.”

 

“And what do they say to those who feel you are too young at sixteen to be here?”

 

“I am not doing anything lewd or distasteful, and to be honest of they think that is what this show is about, they are wrong.  I’m just glad to be here with so many friends.”

 

“Abby, thank you very much.”

 

“Thank you,” Abby said before the cameraman said “You’re off.”

 

“Good luck,” Jeanne said as she hugged Abby, and then the next girl was brought on.

 

 

 

 

8.30 pm

 

“I sit and wait,

Does an Angel, contemplate my fate…”

 

As Robbie Williams started singing, Abby stepped onto the stage, the crowd cheering and applauding as she smiled, blew kisses and moved her body to show and her outfit to the best advantage. 

 

Candace and Behati followed her to the same applause, the three girls walking with Robbie as he sang

 

“And through it all, she offers me protection,

A lot of love and affection,

Whether I’m right or wrong.”

 

The girls walked around the catwalk with him, posing and smiling as he sang to them and everyone else, so that as the song finished, he was folding his arms as they stood around him.

 

The applause by now was deafening, as the three girls accompanied Robbie off, each of them receiving a kiss as they ran off to change.  He bowed to Diana before he left, a smile playing on her lips.

 

“She was fantastic out there Countess,” Sophia said as she stood next to Diana.

 

“Still, I think of her as my little baby,” Diana said with a smile.

 

“You should be proud of her,” Sophia said as Adele walked past for the next part of the show.

 

 

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen – please welcome to the stage Beyonce!”

 

As she started to sing, Abby was standing backstage, adjusting the black gloves she was wearing as Cara came alongside, dressed in a red basque with knee length boots.

 

“Ready to create a stir?”

 

“Always,” Abby said with a smile.

 

“By the way, will you sign your calendar for me?”

 

“My calendar?  All the girls and two of the teachers helped with that, you know.”

 

“Go,” the stage assistant said, and the two models strode out, looking out onto the audience as Beyonce sang, and clapping, blowing kisses, reaching down and giving low fives to the audience as they walked round.

 

They returned back stage, the others clapping and cheering as Sophia said “Right – quick rest and then on stage for the finale girls.”

 

“Who’s doing the finale?”

 

“Find out when everyone else does,” Sophia called out as the girls went to the rest area.

 

“Who is it Sophia?”

 

“Him,” she said to Diana as she pointed to a man walking round backstage.

 

 

Abby smiled when she heard the music begin to play, and Elton John started to sing, the girls walking out to a standing ovation as they crossed and applauded everyone else.

 

“Well done girls,” Sophia said as they finally came off, “not go, get changed – we eat as a group tonight!”

 

 

Wednesday 3rd December

11 am

Complete Style Offices

 

“Ju?  There’s a StJohn Stevens here to see you.  He says he has an appointment?”

 

“Yeah he does – show him in Janine,” Juliette said as she stood up and brushed off her skirt.  Janine showed in the tall dark haired man, who held out his hand and said “Thank you for agreeing to see me, Miss Huntingdown.”

 

“It’s a pleasure, Mister Stevens…”

 

“Actually it’s Doctor Stevens, but if you wish you may call me StJohn.”  He smiled as he sat down, Juliette doing likewise.

 

“Well StJohn, I’m not sure how much help I can be in your investigations.  I was one of those held at gunpoint, after all.”

 

“Indeed, but it is often the little details that make the greatest difference,” he said as he crossed his legs and took out a notepad.  “Was there anything about these women that struck you?”

 

“Apart from their style and dress sense, and the fact they carried very lethal looking weapons?”  Juliette thought for a moment and then said “Oh yeah – they terrorized us and one of them assaulted a good friend of mine.  Apart from that, not really.”

 

StJohn laughed and shook his head.  “I was warned you were a woman who spoke her mind Miss Huntingdown.  Let me put it a different way – did you see anything in the way they decided which paintings to take?”

 

“They did seem to have some idea of what they wanted – the one leading them, Miss Cheetah, told them which ones to take down.”

 

He smiled as he made a note.  “And the ones she defaced?”

 

“That seemed to be random – although she did make some crack about not liking the art.  Why – do you think she was an art critic?”

 

“I think she was a very dangerous woman,” StJohn said with a smile.  “But you have been a GREAT help Miss Huntingdown.  Thank you for your time.”

 

As he stood up, Juliette stood and watched him walk to the door.  He stopped for a moment, turned and said “Forgive me, but may I ask an impertinent question?”

 

“And that would be?”

 

“May I buy you a drink some time?  I would like to get to know you better.”

 

“It is an impertinent question,” Juliette said, “but if you wish, I am free at eight tonight.”

 

“Very good – I shall collect you here?”

 

Juliette nodded as he left, wondering what had just happened.

 

 

1 pm

The Roof Garden Café, MMOA

 

“Heather, darling, over here.”

 

Heather smiled and waved over to Natasha as she made her way past the others eating lunch.

 

“I got your message,” she said as she kissed the young French diplomat, and then saw the other blonde woman sitting with her.  “I don’t believe I have had the pleasure?”

 

“No I do not think you have,” Natasha said.  “Heather, this is an old school friend of mine, Jeanne Marais.  Jeanne, this is Heather Smith.”

 

“Pleased to meet you,” Jeanne said as they shook hands, “please, be seated.”

 

“So I presume I was invited to meet your friend,” Heather said, “may I ask why?”

 

“I know you have a passion for art,” Natasha said, “and when we were talking, Jeanne heard me share of your passion.  So she asked if she could meet you.”

 

“Hence the meal here?”

 

“In part,” Jeanne said, “but I would be interested in your views as a professional art historian as well.”

 

“I’m a nanny to a New York Socialite,” Heather said.

 

“Who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Yale with the highest marks ever attained, and whose dissertation on late period Van Gogh has been cited more than any other academic paper on the subject in recent years.”

 

Natasha looked at Heather, who smiled and said “You got me – so how can I help you?”

 

“I work for Interpol in their Counterfeit Art division,” Jeanne said, “and I’m here investigating the recent theft at the Arabian.”

 

“I heard about that – but why is Interpol interested?”

 

“Some of the works that were – defaced have been found to be forgeries of the highest caliber.  This is just the latest in a series of discoveries – though admittedly, none have been quite so dramatic.”

 

“I see,” Heather said as their food arrived.  “This is not the first time something like this has happened of course.”

 

“It is not?  When has it occurred before,” Natasha enquired.

 

“You do of course remember John Drewe?” Heather asked.

 

“I do.” Jeanne paused, “It’s my worry that we have someone out there who is pulling something similar.”

 

“Only on a bigger and even more sophisticated scale.”

 

Jeanne nodded. “With so many records today computerized, my thinking is that a really clever hacker could plant a false provenance trail.”

 

“People trust that official computer records are secure, might get sloppy in authenticating a picture.”

 

“Those are my thoughts.”

 

“Well I’m always here if you want to ask me questions, but my real expertise is in late 19th century art, not 20th century.”

 

“Well I rang your old tutor at the National Gallery in London, and she’d given me your name anyway as someone I should see anyway. It’s just a pleasant coincidence that we have a mutual friend in Natasha. “

 

“Indeed – I’ll remind Amy of that next week?”

 

“Oh – she is coming here?”

 

“No – I’m going there.  A favour for a couple of friends, but if I can help in the meantime?”

 

“Thank you,” Jeanne said as she smiled.  “So how does an expert in art history become a nanny?”

 

“Long story,” Heather said as they started to eat.

 

4 pm

The Richmond Mansion

 

“Hey Abby – welcome back,” Jo said as Abby came in.

 

“Thanks, I think,” Abby said.  Can I just check – it is Wednesday isn’t it?”

 

“It is - and yes, you are in New York, and yes it is that cold,” Jo said as she hugged her friend.  “When did you get back?”

 

“About two this afternoon,” she said as Doc helped Jeannie in.  “Hey you two – I had to sign a load of calendars yesterday.  How did they get to London?”

 

“Oh yeah – we need to tell you about that,” Jeannie said, “once you tell us about just how bad it was in Fiji.”

 

“Oh it was torture – but the flights were worse.   I didn’t eat properly for four days.  Now, the calendars?”

 

“Well, I had to make an executive decision on your behalf when the printers called.  They sold out?”

 

“They did?  That’s great – how soon?”

 

“Monday morning – so the second printing is out there now.  Good Morning America want to talk to both of us tomorrow about the Scholarship and the Calendar.”

 

“Great – so much for a lie in tomorrow.”

 

“You have school – remember?”

 

“How could I forget,” Abby groaned.

 

6.30 pm

The Village

 

“And to what do we owe the honour of a visit from you this far downtown Ju?” Annie asked as Dom showed their friend in.

 

Ju unfastened her heavy coat and laid it on the back of a chair, smiling as she said “I have a job for you two ladies.”

 

“Oh?” Dominique glanced at Ama sitting in front of the TV, “and what might that be?”

 

“To break into Madame’s new penthouse.”

 

Dom and Annie looked at each other before the teacher asked “Why?”

 

“It’s a test Annie.” Dominique smiled, “It’s why neither of us has been allowed near the place.”

 

“We’ve installed a security system that Joanne says is impregnable, your job is to prove her wrong.”

 

“How long do we have?”

 

“Till before Madame arrives and moves in, don’t tell us your plans, don’t include any of us in the operation, we don’t want to know, we just want to see if we got it right.”

 

“How do we prove we were in there?” Annie asked.

 

“Each night one of the techs will sleep there, if one morning we should arrive and find her tied up, then we know we have something to fix.”

 

“That’s clever Juliette.” Dom smiled.

 

“I trust you accept the assignment?”

 

“I don’t know, if Jo had anything to do with it, it’ll be tough.”

 

“But we accept the challenge,” Dominique said.

 

“You may find these of some use,” Juliette said as she handed Dom a cardboard tube, “and this is all the help I can give.  Have fun.”

 

“I’ll show you out,” Dom said as Juliette put her coat on, “you’re sure you won’t stay?”

 

“I can’t – I’m meeting someone for a drink.  I’ll see you girls later.”

 

Annie looked over at Ama as Dom showed Juliette out.  “You’re very quiet, Ama.”

 

“I know this is your profession, Annie.  If I can help, I will.”

 

Dominique came back into the front room and sat back down.

 

“So how do we do this Dom?”

 

“Well first thing is we try to think like our enemies, in this case Heather and her sister.”

 

“Well…” Annie thought carefully, “Heather’s going to have packed in electronics that we’ve never even heard of. “

 

“That’s what I was thinking as well.”

 

“And Jo’s an experienced burglar, she’s going to have put in all the surprises she’d hate to find on a job.”

 

“The defenses will be multi-layered and sophisticated. We get past one set we know there will be more.”

 

She picked up the cardboard tube and went over to the table, opening it and taking out some papers.

 

“So what’s this?” Annie asked as she came over, watching as Dom unrolled several large photocopies.

 

“Building plans and applications for permits that Tonia filed with City Hall before she started the renovations.”

 

“Okay elevator leading to hallway, leading to the door of the apartment.” Annie looked hard at the plans.

 

“Well you know there will be cameras everywhere, and that Heather will have ensured 24/7 monitoring and detection for such things as playback loops on the video.”

 

“And why do I suspect it will not be simple to pick the lock and get in.” Annie shook her head.

 

“May I say something?”

 

“Of course you can Ama,” Dom said as she saw the young girl looking at the plans.

 

“It is true that Heather is an incredibly intelligent woman, correct?”

 

“Frighteningly so,” Annie said with a nod.

 

“And Jo is skilled in many ways – so I wonder if you need a pair of eyes as intelligent and as courageous to look at this as well.”

 

Annie and Dom looked at each over, before Dom said “go on?”

 

“I was talking to the girls today – they came round after school – and Anna and Becca were talking about something they did to Nikki before the holiday.  They pretended to be burglars, broke into her home and over powered her.”

 

“Did they now,” Annie said.  “Overpowered as in…”

 

“They bound and silenced her is my understanding – but Nikki gave permission for them to do it.  I hope I am not placing them in any trouble?”

 

“No – but you make a good point Ama.  Perhaps fresh eyes will help us.”

 

Ama beamed as Dom said that, saying “thank you Dominique.”

 

“I’ll get them to come over after school tomorrow – and I’ll ask Mary Thomas over as well.  We have to come up with a good plan.”

 

8.30 pm

The Odeon

145 West Broadway

 

“I thought we were going for a drink,” Juliette said as they walked into the bar.

 

“We are – but I was told this was a good place to go for a drink,” Stevens said, “and I am a little hungry, so perhaps I can eat – and you can join me?”

 

“I would appear to have been conned into a night out,” Juliette said with a smile as she took a menu.  “I’ll have the salmon please.”

 

“Steak, medium rare,” StJohn said, “and a glass of Medoc.”

 

“French 75,” Juliette said as the waitress smiled.

 

“So Miss Juliette Huntingdown – may I call you Juliette?”

 

“You may if you pick up the tab,” Juliette said with a smile.  “So Doctor Stevens…”

 

“I thought we agreed you could call me StJohn.”

 

“All right – StJohn,” Juliette said with a smile, “so what have you discovered so far that you can share?”

 

“Mostly what you said earlier – highly dangerous, highly proficient, and targeted certain paintings.  I am intrigued by these ladies, but my first priority has to be both the paintings that were taken – and those that were defaced.”

 

“Do you think you can recover the stolen paintings?”  She watched him as the drinks arrived, and he thanked the waitress.

 

“I do not know, so I must concentrate on the paintings that were damaged, and try to figure out why.  And also see who may have bought the paintings on the black market.”

 

“And as you do that, try to charm me?”

 

“Is it working?”

 

“A little.” Juliette found herself giggling in a way she hadn’t done in years.

 

“So tell me about yourself?”

 

“Well let’s see, I’m a grandmother.”

 

“Oh No now that’s not possible,” StJohn said as he sat back, “you are far too young.”

 

“Well my daughter gave birth to a daughter this summer, so I’m afraid I am.” Juliette laughed.

 

“So what else?”

 

“Let’s see, I’m a journalist, I model part-time, I have a small business I own as well.”

 

“That must all keep you fully busy.”

 

“It does,” Juliette sighed, “Can I admit this is the nearest to going out on an actual date that I’ve done in over five years.”

 

“A lady of your beauty! … Now I refuse to believe that totally.”

 

“Well it’s true.”

 

“Such a waste.” Stevens shook his head, “Well I’m especially honoured then.”

 

“Flatterer,” Juliette said as the food came.  “So what about you? Is there anyone special in your life?”

 

“Not really – the job keeps me very busy.  Which does not mean there has not been the occasional friend.”  He chewed on some steak and then said “You are a grandmother and yet it is Miss Huntingdown.  Was there ever a partner – say your daughter’s father?”

 

“Not really,” Juliette said, “Carina’s father…”

 

“Carina?  A lovely name.”

 

“I’ll tell her that,” Juliette said.  “No, her father wanted nothing to do with her or me.  He’s dead now anyway.”

 

“Ah – my condolences.”

 

“Not a great loss.  So you were saying?”

 

“I was?  Oh yes – work keeps me busy, but I play the piano, and sometimes try to sing.  Apart from that, art is my passion.”

 

The conversation continued, until StJohn looked at his watch.

 

“My is that the time?  I must see you home, Juliette – it is the least I can do.”

 

“Well, if you must,” Juliette said as he helped her from the chair, and held her coat as she put it on.  Stepping out, he hailed a cab and helped her in, then out at her apartment block.

 

“Thank you for a wonderful evening,” she said as he kissed her hand.

 

“It was my pleasure, perhaps we can do this another time?”

 

Juliette smiled, and said "So do you want to come up for a cup of coffee StJohn?"

"I'd love to Juliette."

The doorman looked up as she came in with StJohn, and smiled as they went to the elevator, Juliette looking at the tall Englishman as they went in.

"Well this is a lovely apartment," StJohn said as he looked round.

"It gets a bit lonely when Carina and Judith aren't here…Please take a chair and I'll go do the coffee."


"That would be lovely Juliette."

He smiled as she went to the kitchen, returning with two cups.  Sitting next to him, she put the cups down and looked at him, smiling as he reached over and held her hand.

 

“Thank you,” he said as he took a sip from the cup.

 

“For the coffee?”

 

“For tonight,” he said with a smile, as they sat and drank.  Eventually, however, he stood and said “I really should be going.  I have to meet with the Countess de Ros tomorrow.”

 

“A pity,” Ju said as he walked to the door with her.  As he put his coat on, he said “As I said, I hope we can do this again.

 

"You could stay the night you know?" Juliette smiled as she opened the door.

"And what sort of gentleman would that make me?" he leaned in and gave her the tiniest of kisses as he pulled the door shut behind him.

"The perfect kind." Juliette whispered happily to herself.  She walked back into the main room and sat down, smiling as she looked at the coffee mugs on the table.

 

Eventually she heard her phone buzz, and looked at the message.  Smiling, she opened her laptop and connected to the incoming Skype call.

 

“So how did it go,” Carina said as she sat with Judith in her arms.

 

“I can’t complain,” Juliette said with a smile.

 

“No kidding – you’re smiling like the proverbial Cheshire Cat, Mom.  So what's this Doctor Stevens like?"

"As a man?"

"Duh - Yes."

"Pretty dreamy." Juliette leaned back and smiled. "I gave him the green light to stay and he turned me down."

"Wow old world chivalry finally arrives on the Upper East Side." Carina giggled.

"So why did you Skype me this late?"

"Well earlier you were out on your date…"

"Bitch!”  Ju smiled happily at her daughter.

"Anyway I was going over the list of girls you say I have to invite to my tea party…MUST I include Holly?"

"Well since you are being presented together I'm afraid there is no way round it."

 

"DAMN!"

"The debutante always does a round of teas, etc with the girls coming out at the same ball."

 

“Well, I guess I have to practice my hostess face.  So that’s a week Sunday right?”

 

“That’s right – you come back and we do yours Sunday, then Judy on Monday.”

 

“Deep, deep joy,” Carina said with a sigh.

 

Thursday 4th December

Early

The Richmond Mansion

 

"Are you ever coming to bed lover?" Sandy wandered into the kitchen totally nude.

"Yeah about midnight." Heather didn't even look up from her note taking and reading.

"Lover it's already gone two thirty."

"It has?" Heather glanced at her watch.

"What am I wearing Heather?"

"Your blue pajamas, why?"

"LOOK lover?"

"Oh!" Heather looked up, her glasses on the tip of her nose.

"I don't know whether to feel hurt or insulted." Sandy pouted.

 

“I’m sorry,” Heather said as she stood up, “I didn’t realize…”

 

“Hush – time for bed,” Sandy said as she took Heather by the hand and led her up the stairs…

 

11 am

St Angela’s

 

"Becca, Anna, can I ask you to stay behind a moment."

"Sure Miss Kelly." Becca smiled as the other girls filed out of the classroom.

"I heard a whisper that you girls pulled a little stunt at Nikki's recently, is that true?" Annie asked.

"It was all consensual Miss." Anna said.

"I'm sure it was and you're not in trouble girls."

"Oh?" Anna looked curious.

"You know my friend Caroline is a security consultant?"

"Yes." both girls nodded.

"And you've both met Miss Xavier."

"She's great," Becca smiled.

"Well Caroline has been asked to test the security system at her new apartment before she moves in."

"Okay but how does that…" Doc paused, "I can't believe I just thought this but is she asking for OUR help?"

"Sometimes you are too smart Anna Carlton, but yes - put basically she's recruited me, and asked if you two might help after she overheard you gossiping with Ama."

"So what would we have to do?" Becca asked.

"Nothing illegal, as I said this is not a real crime just a test." Annie glanced at the two eager faces, "so are you interested?"

"Do you really need an answer Miss?" Anna giggled.

 

“Good – call your parents, and say I need you to help with an after school project.  I’ll get you both back home afterwards.”

 

4 pm

Complete Style Magazine

 

“Hey.”

 

Juliette looked up and smiled as Abigail was shown into her office. The gangly bespectacled schoolgirl looked a million miles away from the model as she kissed her aunt on the cheek and slumped into a chair.

 

“Hey as well, so how were Fiji and London?”

 

“Tiring, and then I come back to this calendar controversy…  Aunt Ju. I dropped in to ask for your advice.”

 

“Well seeing as my printer friend earlier rang to say he’s doing a fifth print run, I can say it’s a runaway commercial success.”

 

Abigail nodded.  “All well and good, but what about all the controversy?”

 

“Let me ask a straight question Abby,” Juliette said as she came round and sat at the table.  “Is any other woman involved ashamed of her picture?”

 

“No.”

 

“Is Miss Tennant unhappy?”

 

“Only at the criticism in elements of the media.  She saw them before they went out, and would never have allowed it if there was a problem.”

 

“And did you read Jane’s rousing defense in the Times?”

 

“I did.” Abby smiled.

 

“So what are you afraid of then? Yes some of the models are strictly speaking jail bait, but not a single breast or pubic hair is actually shown, everything dirty is in the mind of the beholder.”

 

“I guess so.”

 

“So don’t worry it will all just be a storm in a tea cup.” Juliette crossed her fingers.

 

“Still, I hope it doesn’t go to the girls heads…”

 

“They’re sensible,” Juliette said as she grabbed her coat.  “Come on – I’ll run you home.”

 

5 pm

The Village

 

"Thanks for coming over Mary." Annie greeted the older woman at the apartment door.

"Well your message sounded intriguing darling. How can I help you?"

"Come through please."  Annie led the Welsh Wizard to the main room, where two others were waiting with Caroline.

"Hello Anna, Hello Becca, what are you doing here?" Mary was now confused.

"Mary you know how you dressed us all for that kidnapping at graduation time?"

"I do Annie."

"Well Caroline has a favour to ask?"

 

Mary looked at the blonde sitting in the chair.

"I've been asked to check the security system out at Shirley Xavier's new place before she moves in."

"Okay Caroline I get that."

"Well Doc and Becca have agreed to help, but we all four need costumes and disguises so we can do surveillance…"

"Just like we did with Mr. Obnoxious." Annie reminded Mary.

"Can you help Mary with wigs, outfits, etc."

"Well I'll admit that thing was a lot of fun…Hmmm it shouldn't be hard.  Let’s go back to the office and sneak up the back stairs."

 

“What about Ama?”

 

“She went to see Pepsi – planning Saturday I believe,” Annie said as she grabbed her coat.

 

“I’ll call and tell her we’ve gone out,” Caroline said before she went to get her own jacket.

 

 

6 pm

Natasha de Ros’ apartment

 

“Hello Heather what are you doing here.” Jan spotted her friend waiting for an elevator as she came into the lobby.

 

“Jeanne Marais asked me to come over. And you?”

 

“The same…we aren’t in trouble are we?”

 

“I can’t see how.” Heather got in as the elevator door opened and pressed the buttons for Natasha’s floor.

 

“Are you carrying though?”

 

“In my purse.” Heather answered. “You?”

 

“The same.”

 

“Well we will soon see.” Heather took a deep breath as they left the elevator and walked down the corridor, and then she knocked on Natasha’s door.

 

“Oh hello.” Jeanne came to the door and opened it. “How are you both?” She smiled and ushered them in.

 

“Fine.” Janice answered as she scanned the apartment.

 

“Tasha says you know each other already.” Jeanne smiled, “so that helps.”

 

“The question seems logically what can we do for you?” Heather spoke quietly.

 

“Well I’ve been getting up to date with both this case and the Pussycat gang in general.” Jeanne pointed to the pile of files on the coffee table.

 

“Well that explains Jan being here, but what about me?”

 

“Well I have a surprise for you Heather…”

 

Heather gripped her purse tightly as she looked at Jeanne.  ”Which is?”

 

“Contrary to the opinion of the FBI Crime Lab, all the defaced paintings were actually forgeries.”

 

“They were?” Heather said as much in relief as anything.

 

“Yes, I had my own experts look at the canvasses.”

 

“Well that’s news.” Janice looked serious, “But why not just ring?”

 

“Because looking at the reports I think the Pussycats have a source in the FBI.”

 

“They WHAT?” Janice exploded.

 

Jeanne nodded as she sat down and crossed her legs.  “Their intelligence is just too good to be true.  If they don’t have a source, they know someone who does.”

 

“Jeanne! Again what does this have to do with me?” Heather asked.

 

“I think you two are the only two people I want to trust close to this case.” Jeanne smiled slightly grimly, “I’m suspicious of everyone else,”

 

“Meaning?” Jan asked.

 

“I want us to be a three woman task force working this case independently of both the FBI and Dr. Stevens.” Jeanne spoke strongly.

 

“You’re asking a lot with that, Jeanne,” Jan said.

 

“Your work on the recent slavery case tells me you have an independent mind Jan – and your expertise would be invaluable Heather.  I would not ask this of you if I was not serious.”

 

“You need to know I travel to London on business next week, Jeanne.”

 

“I do know – talk to Professor Hider for me, see if she can help.”

 

Jan and Heather looked at each other, before Jan smiled and said “Where do we start?”

 

 

7 pm

Complete Style, Merlin’s Cave

 

"Okay we roll bandage round your chests girls."


"Ouch that hurts Mary." Becca complained as Mary squeezed her breasts flat,

"I know sweetie, but if you are going to pass for younger, then those girls need be hidden."

"Oh the things I do to help…" Doc grimaced.

"Now pull a tee shirt on and add your glasses."

"Damn I look like I did when I was 11." Becca laughed.

"Nice and young middle class girls tend to be invisible to adults." Mary laughed. "No makeup on, nobody will even give you a second glance."

"Which will allow you to look and learn young lady." Caroline said as she smiled at her.

 

“And as for you, young lady, you get to play soccer mom in her winter outfit.”

 

Caroline was wearing a padded jerkin over a wool sweater, jeans and knee length black boots, while an auburn wig and a pair of round glasses completed the look.  Annie, by contrast, was wearing a leopard print skirt with long black suede boots, and a black suede jacket.

 

“Yeah, this will work – mummy taking her two daughters to the park, and someone who has been out all night.  Real role reversal.”

 

“Well, you asked for help, you got it,” Mary said, “so what happens now?”

 

“Top secret Mary – but thanks for your help.  You can get back to normal now girls – but we’ll need your help on Saturday, so get here early.”

 

Friday 5th December

10 am

The de Ros mansion

 

“Forgive the interruption, Madame, but there is a gentleman here to see you.”

 

Diana looked up and across at Edith, before she said “and this gentleman is?”

 

“His card,” she said as she handed Diana a business card.  She looked at it, sighed and said “Very well then – show him in.”

 

“This way, sir,” Edith said as Diana stood up, looking at StJohn Stevens as he came in.

 

“Thank you for sparing the time to see me, Countess de Ros,” he said as he shook her hand.

 

“I truly do not see how I can help you in this distasteful affair,” Diana said as she indicated a seat, “but I understand you have a job to perform.  May I offer you some coffee?”

 

“Please – I drink it black, if that is possible.”

 

“Edith, please bring Doctor Stevens a black coffee,” Diana said as they sat down.  “So, how may I be of assistance to you?”

 

“I understand you were one of those caught up in this unfortunate event?”

 

“I was present at the event, that is correct, and yes it was unfortunate,” Diana said as Edith brought a cup of coffee in, and laid it on the coffee table.  “However, I have done my best to put the events of that night out of my mind, for the sake of my sanity and that of my daughter.”

 

“Ah yes – the delightful Abigail.  You must be very proud of her.”

 

Diana raised an eyebrow as Stevens smiled.

 

“I trust you mean that in a professional capacity, Doctor Stevens?”

 

He looked flustered for a moment, before he said “I did not mean any disrespect, and if I gave that impression, I apologise Countess.  Was there anything you remember of that night that you believe may be of use to me?”

 

“Only the distress caused to my friend Kelly Rochermann, I regret to say,” Diana said as she stood up.  “Unless you have any further questions, Doctor Stevens, I do not believe I can be of any further help to you.”

 

“I see,” Stevens said as he stood.  “I am sorry to hear that, Countess de Ros – you strike me as a fascinating woman.  Perhaps we could meet for a…”

 

“I would decline, Doctor Stevens.  Edith, show him out will you?”

 

As the housekeeper showed the visitor out, Diana muttered under her breath “J'espère sincèrement que nous ne reverrons, vous visqueuse petit crapaud de l'homme.”

 

10 am

FBI Field Office

 

“Run that past me again, Jeanne?”

 

“I hate to say this but I think these damn women did the vandalism just to highlight that these pictures were fakes.” Jeanne said as she sat on the edge of Tom Callaghan’s desk.

 

“They did what?” Tom interjected.

 

“It’s pretty safe to say they were stealing to order…right?”

 

“Well you, Carter and Ball seem to think so.”

 

“Well then, what if they had their own expert look at the pictures and authenticate them?”

 

“And they discovered they were fake, and decided to teach whoever did it a lesson? Why the hell would a group of crooks ruin another gangs job?” Callaghan leaned forward.

 

“That I’m not sure of, but I think your original pussycats are gone, and what is left now is a combination of crooks, spies, and dare I say policewomen.”

 

“COPS!” Callaghan screamed loud enough for Adam and Janice to come running.

 

“It’s only a theory Tom, but if I’m right then among our pussycats are a few women not averse to righting a few “other peoples’ wrongs.”

 

“Janice, Adam, was there anything to suggest the gang that hit the Arabian were not the real deal?”

 

“Descriptions match them – the only real difference was nobody died this time,” Adam said quietly.

 

“Sorry, Jeanne, but these guys know these bitches.  They may have recruited new members, but the core remains the same.”

 

“I’m sorry, I hope I’m not interrupting anything?”

 

All four turned to see StJohn Stevens standing in the doorway.

 

“No you’re fine,” Tom said.  “I believe you know Inspector Marais from Paris.”

 

“Ah yes – a pleasure as always, Madame.”

 

“Indeed – Agent Carter, may I speak with you for a moment.  Good afternoon,” she said as she walked out, Jan shrugging her shoulders as she followed her to the rest room.

 

“De tous les salauds égoïstes pour arriver ensuite ...” Jeanne said as she slammed the door shut.
 
“I get the feeling you really do not like him,” Jan said quietly.

 

"Can I demonstrate the degree to which I distrust DOCTOR Stevens, by saying that I'd like to have a covert look inside his bedroom and see inside that case of his."

"You want to burgle his hotel room Jeanne." Janice hissed.

"Well I was hoping with the help of one of your friends - and don't tell me you do not know how to contact them Janice - they can supply the specialists to get me inside and out without detection."

"Why do you think I kept…"

"Because despite what Tom says, the group is nowadays more than criminals, it's a working group of talents that can help each other. I figure you are too good Janice to have been left outside after the recent events."

 

Jan looked hard at the young Frenchwoman, before saying “if I introduce you to someone, it is off the books, you never asked me, I never did anything, is that clear?”

 

“All I ask is to speak to someone who could help.”

 

“Very well,” Jan sighed, “What plans do you have for tonight?”

 

“I dine with Natasha at Diana’s place at nine.”

 

“I’ll pick you up at seven thirty and take you for a drink, then take you there.  No promises, but I’ll see what I can do.”

 

“Merci,” Jeanne said as she walked out, while Janice shook her head and then took her secure cell phone out.

 

“Heather?  Time to play dress up…”

 

1 pm

The Refectory

 

 

The girls crowded round Abby as she told them about the show in London.

 

“It was fabulous, and I hope you enjoy it when they show it here.”

 

“Did you really meet Beyonce?”

 

“I did, and she was a pleasure to talk to.”

 

“Make room,” Jo said as she sat down with them.  “So who’s up for a swim tomorrow?”

 

“I’m bringing Ama,” Pepsi said, “but Doc and Becca have cried off.  Something about going shopping.”

 

“Oh yeah?  Without you girls?  A little unusual, but I suppose ‘tis the season.  So are you ready to face the stores again?”

 

“Why do you ask?”

 

“I need to do my present shopping, so I thought I’d go after we hit the Y.”

 

“Well, Ama has said she wants to go, so I suppose the two of us can go with you,” Pepsi said.  “What about you Nikki?”

 

“No can do – I need to go see my dad’s parents Saturday night, so I need to head straight home.  Have fun though.”

 

“So what are your plans for tonight, Abs?”

 

“Natasha and her friend are coming to dinner.  But we’re meeting at your place tomorrow afternoon, right?”

 

“Right – Heather flies out tomorrow, and we’re giving her a sendoff.”

 

8 pm

O’Malley’s Bar

 

“A most interesting place,” Jeanne said as she and Jan squeezed into a booth.

 

“Ladies?”

 

“Half of Guinness for me – Jeanne?”

 

“Bourbon – neat.”

 

The waitress was about to leave when a smooth, deep voice said “Long Island Iced Tea, if you would be so kind.”

 

Jeanne looked up at the tall, thin woman standing by the booth.  She wore a leather jacket and mini skirt, the collar of the jacket covering her neck, her legs enclosed in dark stockings down to the stiletto heeled ankle boots she was wearing.  Through the dark veil that covered her face, she could see the rouged lips and the dark glasses, while even the hat the veil was attached to oozed sex appeal.

 

“Agent Carter – a pleasure to see you again, and who is your friend?”

 

“Thank you for coming,” Jan said and then they waited until the drinks arrived.  “Let me say up front we’re not here in any official capacity.”

 

“I would not be sharing this drink with you if I thought you were, especially with the redoubtable Inspector Marais of Interpol sitting opposite me,” the woman said, and Jeanne could see the smile on her lips.

 

“Forgive me,” Jeanne said, “but you have the advantage of me, have we met?”

 

“Highly unlikely – perhaps I should introduce myself,” the stranger said.  “You may know of me as The Hidden Hand.”

 

Jan smiled as she saw the look of incredulity on Jeanne’s face.  “You are the Hidden Hand?”

 

“I find it mildly amusing that you law enforcement officers all have the same reaction to me,” she said before sipping on her tea.  “Now, my time is short, and I do not particularly wish to stay too long.  Why have you invited me here, Agent Carter?”

 

“My friend here requires some help to discover the true purpose for the visit of a certain insurance agent to New York.  She asked if I knew if any of my recent contacts might be able to help her, so I decided to ask the most intelligent and well connected person I know.”

 

“And when they let you down, you decided to ask for my help?”

 

Jan watched as the Hand looked at Janine.  “Hmm.  Very well then, who is this person you wish to investigate?”

 

“Doctor StJohn Stevens.”

 

“And you wish to do precisely what?”

 

“Learn all there is to know about him, and then see what he carries with him.”

 

“The former is simple, the latter may require a different form of help from what I have to offer,” The Hand said as she finished her drink.  “Very well, I will be in touch Inspector – as a favor to Agent Carter.  Enjoy your drink.”

 

She got up and walked off, Jeanne watching as she swayed in her skirt.

 

“Yeah, she has that effect on you,” Jan said as she pushed her drink to one side, watching as Jeanne drained her glass.  “Come on – I’ll run you round to Diana’s house.

 

“She never said how she would be in touch?”

 

“She will, never fear,” Jan said as she put some money on the table.

 

9 pm

The de Ros Mansion

 

“Jeanne darling, it is a pleasure to see you again after so many years.”

 

“And you too, Diana,” Jeanne said as they kissed each other on the cheek, “I think I was still a schoolgirl the last time we met.”

 

“Very possibly – you remember Abby, of course?”

 

“How could I forget – you have grown so much,” Jeanne said as they embraced.

 

“I’m sorry we were not here to meet you earlier in the week,” Abby said, “but work called.”

 

“Do not worry about it – Natasha has been a more than generous host,” Jeanne said as they sat in the drawing room.

 

“I spoke to Juliette yesterday,” Diana said as they sat down, “and I had a most obnoxious visitor this morning.”

 

“Ah – would that be one StJohn Stevens, perchance,” Jeanne said as she accepted a glass of wine.  “Not one of my favourite people, I grant you.”

 

“Nor mine – there is something about him that I do not find appealing.  I understand you are here for a similar reason, Jeanne – to investigate these art thefts?”

 

“Not quite, Diana, but they are related,” Jeanne said.  “Forgive me if I cannot speak openly, but the events at that show have had some rather unexpected consequences, which I hope to get to the bottom of too.”

 

“Of course, darling, I would not dream of asking you to break professional confidences,” Diana said with a smile.

 

“Good – because this is a very complex issue, but I will get to the bottom of it.  But enough of work – Natasha, how is your new role?”

 

“I am getting used to it, now that the fallout from Francois’ activities has died down somewhat.  Still, it is hard work.”

 

 

Saturday 6th December

10 am

The Village

 

“I will see you later,” Ama said as she waved and set off with Pepsi, Annie and Dom watching as she left.

 

“We’d better get ready,” Annie said as they heard a knock on the door, Annie going down to let Anna and Becca in as Dom went to her room.

 

“All right girls,” Annie said, “the costumes are in the spare bedroom, so get ready.  Doc, you sure you want to do this?”

 

“Oh I was born ready,” Anna said as they went into the room, Dom returning as the soccer mom.  “How long until they are ready,” she said as she tucked her hair under the auburn wig.

 

“I’ll go and help Becca look younger, then you two can set off and do the recon.”

 

“And Anna?”

 

“We’ll need to follow later – once she is ready,” Annie said as she entered the room.  A few minutes later Becca came out, looking like an eleven year old in her grey t-shirt and jeans.

 

“Put this on,” Dom said as she handed the young girl a duffel coat, “we’ll meet you at 2 pm to compare notes.”

 

Annie nodded as she came out of the room, and waited until they came out before she said “all right Anna, let’s see you.”

 

She watched as Anna came out, wearing a tight red top with a v neck that showed her chest, a short black fur coat, a leather skirt that was more a belt than a skirt, black fishnet tights and a pair of over the knee black leather boots with three inch stiletto heels.

 

“Dear god, girl, we said a distraction to get us in.”

 

“Oh this will get us in Miss Kelly – with a little help from you,” Anna said, smiling as she sat down and gave Annie the lipstick.  “Make me look desirable…”

 

 

 

1 pm

Park Avenue

 

Annie walked slowly through the park, her bottom wriggling in the leopard skin skirt, as she stood by the gate and looked at the apartment building opposite.

 

“All right, Doc – go for it, but I’ll be watching,” Annie said as Doc walked across the road, getting admiring glances from others with her eyes covered by dark glasses, and smiled as she went into the lobby of the apartment building.

 

“Can I help you miss,” the young security officer said as Doc walked over to her.

 

“I hope so, honey,” Doc said as she leaned across the desk, and smiled as his eyes looked down at her chest.  “I am in sore need of a toilet break, and I was wondering if you had one I can use?”

 

“Well, I’m not meant to let anyone use the facilities…”

 

“Oh come on, honey,” Doc said as she put her finger under his chin, and pushed it up, “you’re on your own here, and I ain’t gonna tell – after all, you’re the big strong man, aren’t you?”

 

“Yeah I guess I am,” he said quietly.

 

 

“What is she up to,” Dom said as she and Becca came past Annie.

 

“Damn good question – I think she’s trying to seduce him.”

 

 

 

“Listen,” Doc said as she came round and sat on his lap,” maybe I can give you a reward if you help me.”  She reached down and licked his ear, her hand on his chest.

 

“Oh god,” he whispered as she started to kiss and caress his face and neck.

 

“Normally, if you wanted me it would be $150 darling." Doc whispered the words as she nibbled his neck.

"You're a…hooker?"

"Darling when you've got what I have do you think I give it away."   She pressed his head down into her chest and moved round, laughing as she felt his lips on her chest.

“OH sweet Jesus,” he said as she looked at him.

 

"If you have the money I can take real good care of this guy." She seized his cock through his pants.

 

“All right,” he eventually panted, “but where?”

 

"I always wanted to do it in some fancy penthouse." Doc ran the tip of her tongue over her bright red painted lips.

“Well, there is the penthouse – it’s empty at the moment…”

 

“Sounds good,” Doc purred.  "Baby you take me up there and I'll show you the sort of great time I've bet you've only dreamed of getting from your sow of a wife."

 

He looked round and then collected a set of keys, before she took him by the hand and they headed for the lift.

 

“The rich bitch who bought this place hasn’t moved in yet,” the guard said as he opened the door and let Doc in, “she’s had some heavy duty refurbishments made – a lot of workers in and out, but they’ve finished now.”

 

“It’s a swell place,” Doc said before she turned and looked at him.  “You ready handsome?”

 

He nodded slowly as he looked at the young woman.

 

"Darling can I have my present please?" Doc held her hand out, open palm up.

"Your present?"

“Sweetie I'm a working girl remember…No pay NO PLAY!"

Inwardly Anna couldn't believe it as the guy peeled three $50 bills from his wallet and put them in her hand. She'd originally planned this would be the time she produced her little bottle of chloroform and knocked the guy out, but now the seeker after new sensations within her wanted to know just how it felt to be a prostitute, to sell her body, turn a trick and show this smug little bastard just how good a lay she was.

“That’s a good boy,” she said as she slowly knelt in front of the man, pulled his zipper down and freed his now erect penis. It wasn't huge, even in her limited sexual experiences Doc had seen better, but she remembered what she'd read on line, you always tell the John it’s enormous and get him excited.


"Oh Baby where have you been hiding that monster?" Doc licked her lips then started slowly started to kiss the tip of the man’s cock.

Small noises escaped the guy’s lips as she began to lick and suck on his cock, slowly easing it further into her mouth.


"Feel good Baby?" Doc laughed as she asked, feeling the guys dick jump as she worked on it with her mouth.

Quickly she brought him to the edge, before she took her mouth away.

"Here slip this on darling," she handed him a condom as she stripped down to just her garter belt, stockings, and boots.  She then pulled his pants down as he stood, transfixed by the sight of her, as she stood up and smiled.

She pushed the doorman back onto one of the huge couches, positioning him so she could sit on his lap and take in all his length. Slowly as she squatted over him, she nibbled at his neck and ears before lowering herself onto his cock.

"Now you sit still darling." Doc started to rub her breasts in his face as she pushed herself up, then lowered herself down hard on the man’s penis.

Slowly but inexorably she increased the pace as he moaned and started to move in chorus with her.

To her disgust she could feel the guy tense and harden and she knew he was going to shoot his load…DAMN! She’d have to fake it. So just as the guy started to cum she started all the right moves and noises, making the guy feel special that he'd made a whore cum so good.

“There, wasn’t that good,” Doc said as she slipped off, kissing him on his lips as he did so.

 

“Uhhuh,” he moaned as she reached into her handbag, pouring some chloroform onto a cloth as she whispered "Here I'll clean you up." As he closed his eyes, she carefully positioned it in front of the guy’s mouth and nose, before pressing it tightly down. His eyes shot open, but quicker then she had expected he lost consciousness.

 

“Stupid fucker,” she thought to herself as she slipped her top and skirt back on, and then took her cell phone out.

 

“Anna?”

 

"Come on up." Anna spoke the message to Caroline on her cell phone.

“Good work – stay there,” she said.  Anna looked round quickly, but within three minutes there was a knock at the door.


"Come in ladies,” she said as she opened the door, “he's out for the count."

"Did you seduce him Doc?" Annie hissed at the fourteen year old.

"No I propositioned him and got paid for my services." Doc held up the fifties as she smiled.

"You PROSTITUTED yourself?" Becca asked in disbelief.

"Doc that was going way beyond…" Caroline shook her head.

"How will I ever explain that to your mother?" Annie gasped.

"Don't Miss…." Anna laughed sexily, "It’s nice to know that I could do well in an even older profession if I fail in medicine.

"Oh my God." Becca shook her head.

Suddenly Caroline's brain kicked into gear, “okay girls, go tie up sleeping beauty and then let's have a good look what tricks have been installed in here."

 

“In here,” Doc said as she and Becca took the bag from Annie and walked into the room, while she and Caroline looked at the front door.

 

“Okay – code pad, and I’m betting the keys have sensors built in.”

 

Caroline nodded as she took out a small electronic device and ran it down the wall.  “The wiring is hidden – and I suspect even if we could cut it, that would trigger a secondary alarm.”  She then dropped to her hands and knees and looked carefully along the skirting on each side of the hallway.

 

“What are you looking for?”

 

“Holes – normally I’d suspect pressure pads on the floor, but not with those who have been consulted.  Any sign of cameras?”

 

“No – but I doubt if I would see them anyway.  I just assumed they would be there, and the feed to the office somewhere.”

 

“I think that’s a fairly safe assumption – so one of the things I’m doing later is visiting the office, see if someone will drop a hint of where the monitoring room is.”  Caroline stood up and brushed her knees down.  “There is something, but I’m not sure what or how it is triggered.”

 

Annie opened the door to a guest room, and then swung it to and fro.  “This feels heavier – have they reinforced the doors?”

 

Caroline knocked on the door itself, and smiled.  “They’ve bullet proofed the internal doors – smart move.  Let’s go into the drawing room.”

 

As they walked in, Doc was wrapping white tape around the eyes of the security guard, his mouth already covered with tape, while Becca was tying off the rope around his legs, before securing his ankles to the wrists as he lay on his side.

 

“We put cotton wool in his ears as well,” Doc said as she tore the tape off and smoothed it down.

 

“You and I will talk later,” Caroline said to Doc, before she looked round.  “Looks nice and normal – so you can bet it is even more secured.  Weak points?”

 

“There’s an obvious one,” Doc said as she walked to the terrace.  “The way in through here – what’s above us?”

 

“The roof,” Caroline said as she opened the door to the terrace, and walked out.  Looking up, she said “Yeah – definitely a vulnerable spot, but the firm should have spotted that.”

 

She walked over and looked at the garden that April Broadhurst had installed.  “Pepsi’s mum has done a wonderful job here,” she said as she looked up, “it would be a pity to disturb the flowers.”

 

“What are you thinking,” Annie said as she came out.

 

“Best line of approach – drop down onto the flower bed, then see if you can access the room from there.”

 

“What about the private terrace?”

 

Caroline nodded as they went back in, and walked to the den.

 

“Oh this looks wonderful,” Becca said as she and Doc looked round.

 

Caroline took out a camera and started to take some photos.

 

“Is that a new camera,” Doc said as she walked over.

 

“Special one,” Caroline said as she worked her way round.  “Right – you two go and check the other rooms, and do it quietly.  We’ll find you in a few minutes.”

 

“Special camera?”

 

Caroline nodded as she put it away.  “It takes pictures that identify hidden cavities.  I’m betting there is a safe in here somewhere, and a hidden gun rack, but I’ll know more at the apartment later.”  She walked over and ran her hand down the door that led to the private terrace.

 

“Thoughts?”

 

“Not sure – can we get out yet?”  She put her hand on the handle, and then heard a soft click.

 

“The answer is no – there’s a pressure pad on the handle, and I’ll bet bottom dollar it is fingertip controlled.”

 

“Smart – right, the bedroom next.”

 

The two women looked over the bedroom, and then made their way out to join the girls.

 

“Right, we’re going back to the apartment to compare notes.  Doc, one thing?”

 

“Yes Caroline?”

 

“That money goes to the Jamie Kirkham fund, or your mom finds out.”

 

“That’s blackmail!”

 

“Yes, yes it is.  Your choice.”

 

Doc shrugged and said “all right – but I did do a good job, didn’t I?”

 

“Not denying that, but you still frighten me sometimes,” Annie said as Caroline left an envelope next to the still unconscious guard, and the four slipped outside.

 

3.30 pm

The Village

 

“All right you two – grab some drinks from the fridge and we’ll compare notes.”

 

Doc and Becca nodded as they headed for the fridge while Caroline sat at the table.

 

Annie checked the sole message.

 

“Caroline, this is Ama.  I will eat with Pepsi tonight, and come home later – we have some things to discuss.  Please ring Pepsi’s mother if that is a problem.”

 

“You really need to sort out a cell phone for her,” Annie said as she came to the table.”

 

“It’s on the Christmas list,” Caroline said with a smile as the two girls came back.

 

“All right – let’s share what we noticed and found out.”

 

The four sat and talked, Caroline taking notes as they shared their observations.

 

Once Caroline had summarized their detailed analysis of the security measures, she paused to think.

 

“Caroline can I point out the most glaring gap in all this?” Doc asked.

 

“Go ahead,” she said as she sat with her eyes closed.

 

“For all the wireless sophistication of getting the sensors monitored, there is still the weak link in any machine to consider…”

 

“And what’s that?” Annie asked.

 

“Human beings - us.” Doc paused for thought, “Machines can ultimately only monitor other machines so far, sooner or later there have to be human eyes to look at things and make decisions.”

 

“So we find, isolate and subdue the humans involved.” Caroline thought aloud.  “That’s only logical.”

 

“So how do we?” Annie asked.

 

“Old fashioned legwork…we trail the security people who are there at night and we find where they report back to….we get an address we look inside…once we know what they are doing, the advantage switches to us in the game.”

 

“So when do we start?”

 

“You two can help tomorrow, I’ll take the first stab tonight.  Now, go and get changed – one of us will run you home.”

 

As the two girls headed off, Annie said “What do you want to do about Anna?”

 

“Can you run Becca home, and then go from there to the apartment to keep watch?  I’ll talk to Anna.”

 

“I swear, we need to find a way to channel that intellect and energy of hers, or one day she will end up in serious trouble?”

 

“I agree – and we need to think about how to do that, but for now we need to tell her a few home truths.”

 

Annie nodded as Becca and Anna came back out in their own clothes.

 

“Becca, Annie is going to run you home,” Caroline said as Annie grabbed her coat.  “I need to talk something over with Anna.”

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow Becca,” Anna said as she went out with Annie.

 

 "Doc I think we need a serious word." Caroline closed the door.

"Sure," the younger girl smiled.

"I was talking to Annie earlier, school is really too easy for you isn't it?"

"A bit."

"You get straight A's without really having to try don't you?"

"I guess."

"Well we need to find you a channel for the excess brain power and energy you have."

"Well I'm open to ideas." Anna laughed.

“Such as what you did earlier?  Sit down Anna,” Caroline said as she indicated the sofa, and sat next to her.

 

“Caroline, I know what I did was a little over the top, but it got the job done didn’t it?”

 

Caroline sighed and rubbed her eyes.  "I have a secret to tell you, for a while after my mother’s death, I turned tricks on the streets of London and Paris…"

"Oh!"

"Prostitution is superficially fun,” Caroline said “but it’s really grubby and dirty."

"Even at the high end?"

"Well I never worked the high end." Caroline shook her head.  “But whatever end, every time you do it, you put yourself at risk of attack, you put yourself at risk from infection, or worse.”

 

“But if you take precautions…”

 

“Doc, seriously – it hurts your physically, emotionally, and even psychologically.  I’m amazed I survived those months – but I did, and I do not want to see you heading down the same path.”

 

Anna nodded and said “I understand Caroline.”

 

“I really hope you do – but Annie and I are going to find something to fulfill that drive of yours, all right?”

 

“All right – starting with?”

 

“You helping me tomorrow – but tonight, you go home and you rest.”

 

Doc nodded as she got her coat.

 

“Anna?”

 

She looked over to see Caroline holding her hand out.  Opening her pocket book, she took out the three fifties and handed them over.

 

“One less thing to worry about explaining to your mother,” Caroline said as she put her coat on, and picked up her keys.

 

 

 

6 pm

The Richmond Mansion

 

“Right – I need to get to the airport,” Heather said as she picked up her handbag.  “I’ll call everyone tomorrow morning.”

 

“Safe trip, and say hello to Shirley for me,” Juliette said as she hugged Heather, while Jo went outside to answer her cell phone.”

 

“I will,” Heather said as she hugged and kissed the others, and then went out to hear Jo say “You’re KIDDING!  Sure I’ll tell her.”

 

“Problem,” Heather said as Jo dragged her into the kitchen.

 

“You could say that – they managed to get access to the apartment.”

 

“Oh – how?”

 

“The doorman took a damn hooker up there and she chloroformed him” Jo threw her arms up in the air.  “That was Susan telling me the night watchman found him with a note from Dom.”

 

“So we can assume safely that Dominique has been inside and inspected all our work.” Heather nodded.

 

“Yeah – but they won’t have found everything,” Jo said.  “Go – I’ll let you know what happens.”

 

As she came back in from seeing Heather off, she saw Juliette smiling.

 

“What’s funny?”

 

“Not funny – good.  I have an invitation to see Swan Lake on Monday.”

 

“Oh yes – with who?”

 

Juliette only smiled as Sandy looked over.  “What got you upset?”

 

“The test at Shirley’s place,” she said, as Diana and Abby looked over.

 

“What?  Have they started?”

 

“In a way a hooker seduced the doorman, got him to let her into the apartment, she did her job, then chloroformed him and secured him.”

 

The others looked at each other, and then burst out laughing.

 

“Dom left a note saying this one was a freebie – poor guy has lost his job, probably.”

 

"So who played hooker?"

"I'll you give you evens on Doc." Sandy smiled as she looked at Abby.

"Yeah that's her kind of stunt, when this is all over that young lady and I need to sit down and have a serious chat….Head girl to freshman."

 

Sunday 7th December

9 am

The Village

 

“Good morning, Ama,” Caroline said as she came in, the steam rising from the freshly baked bread.  “Has Annie got up yet?”

 

“I believe she is in the shower,” Ama said as she came into the kitchen with Caroline, and smelt the bread.  “Shall I prepare some coffee?”

 

“Please,” Caroline said as Ama went to the coffee maker.  As the smell of the coffee mixed with that of the bread, Annie came out, wearing a robe as she toweled her hair.

 

“Hot coffee and fresh bread, the stuff of kings,” Annie said as she sat down.

 

“So when did you get in?”

 

“After midnight – I followed a couple of girls from the apartment, but they just led me a wild goose chase.”

 

“Where to?”

 

“Susan’s apartment,” Annie said with a wry smile.  “I strongly suspect Clint would have a word or two to say about a surveillance post there?”

 

Dom nodded in agreement as Ama brought the coffee over.  “I take it Madame’s apartment is a challenge?”

 

“A challenge yes – but not too great a one,” Dom said as she cut the bread.  “Give me time and I will find the way to get in.”

 

“And were Doc and Becca of use?”

 

“In their own way,” Annie said quietly, “in their own way…”

 

 

10 am GMT

The Savoy

 

“Miss Smith,” Jack Docherty said as he opened the door for Heather, a porter coming to collect her bags from the black cab, “a pleasure to see you again.”

 

“Let me guess – John called?”

 

“He did indeed – and I stand ready to help in any way I can.”

 

“A few hours sleep might be an idea,” Heather said as she stretched.

 

“Sadly, I do not believe you will get that just yet,” Jack said as he indicated the approaching Lily Cole.

 

“Heather, thanks for coming out,” she said as she hugged the young woman.  “Up for a walk and some Sunday lunch?”

 

“Give me an hour to check in, shower and get some coffee in me,” Heather said, “and then phone home, and I’m all yours.”

 

“You got it,” Lily said as she walked off, the heels of her ankle boots clicking on the marble floor as she walked to the bar.  “So much for the sleep,” Heather said to herself as she walked to the reception desk, and checked in.

 

 

Forty five minutes later, Heather sat on a chair in her room, sipping up her brown boots over her jeans before she opened her laptop and logged into the secure network.

 

“Hey Sis,” Jo typed as she entered the chat room, “Good flight?”

 

“I slept a little – but the arrival of one Lily Cole put the kybosh on any sleep here yet.  How’s home?”

 

“Freezing cold,” Jo replied as Shirley appeared.  “Welcome to my neck of the woods Heather – are you still able to visit on Tuesday?”

 

“Just tell me where to find you, and I’ll come,” Heather typed in.

 

“Excellent – I will see you then.”

 

“Right – I need to go have lunch with Lily, and find out why she’s dragged me halfway round the world.  Talk to your guys later.”

 

As she left her room, and descended to the lobby, Heather stretched and yawned again – which made it awkward when the elevator doors opened and Lily was standing there, Amy Hider by her side.

 

“She was like this is lectures sometimes as well,” Amy said with a sigh, “but I knew she was still listening,”

 

“Har de har har,” Heather said as she hugged her old teacher, “so where are we going to eat?”

 

“I know this place over in Piccadilly – I think you’ll like it,” Amy said as they walked down the short street…

 

 

6 pm

Park Avenue

 

Caroline and Doc were sitting across from the apartment block, dressed as mother and daughter, thick woolen coats around them and Russian hats on their heads, as they watched the blonde haired woman walk out of the building.

 

“All right, that’s our first target,” Caroline said as she stood up with Doc, and they followed on foot.  “You catching this Annie?”

 

“Tracking you on the laptop,” Annie said from the apartment building as she watched the tracer moving through the street map.  “I already downloaded the route I took last night on the map – looks like she’s going a different way.”

 

“Not surprising,” Caroline whispered into the throat mike, “I suspect they have several different routs they follow.  The question is, do they intersect anywhere?”

 

“Well, we’ll know soon enough,” Annie said as they walked around the streets, the blonde stopping for a few minutes in a deli before moving on, and then heading round and back to the apartment block.

 

“Well?”

 

“We have one point of intersection – what do you want to do?”

 

“Come and replace us – we’ll head back.  I expect one more girl to come out – once we have her, we might have a better idea.”

 

 

10 pm

The Village

 

“There you are,” Dom said as Annie came back in, taking her coat off and hanging it up.

 

“Well, that was a fun walk,” Annie said, “and for the record, it’s snowing.”

 

“Good – because we have our target site,” Dom said as Annie looked at the screen.

 

“There?”

 

“That’s right – tell Doc and Becca tomorrow we may need them at 6 pm here.  We’re going to give the security a proper test.”

 

 

 

 

Monday 8th December

10 am

St Angela’s

 

As the bell went, Jeannie smiled and put her books away.

 

“Anna, Becca, a word please,” Annie said as the others made their way out.

 

“You two in trouble again,” Nikki said as they went to the front.

 

“Caroline and I will need your help one last time,” Annie said quietly, “be at our apartment for 6 pm tomorrow.  After that, you will not be needed.”

 

“Great – and thanks for trusting us again,” Doc said with a smile.

 

“Wear dark clothing, all right?”

 

The two girls nodded as they walked out of the classroom.

 

"So what was it like having a man pay you for sex?" Becca whispered to her friend.

"A turn on, it felt amazing that he was prepared to pay money to have me."

"I presume Caroline read the riot act to you?"

"Yeah giving me a warning about the evils of prostitution. But…"

"Oh crap Doc I know that look.”

"Well a little reading never did anyone any harm."

Becca shook her head, "That's what Evie says in The Mummy, and you remember how that turned out."

 

10 am GMT

Buckingham Palace

 

“When you said an advisory role, Lily, I never thought…”

 

Heather was standing in one of the reception rooms at the Palace, wearing a grey jacket over a dark blue dress, and black heels, while Amy Hider stood in a black jacket and skirt.  The film crew was setting up as Lily handed the two of them the script.

 

“I know, but I couldn’t resist the surprise,” Lily said as they were served coffee in china cups.  “Have a look and see if there are any glaring errors I have missed.”

 

“Well, best do what the lady says,” Amy murmured as the two of them sat down and read through the script, making a couple of annotations on their copies as they went down.

 

“Want to compare notes,” Heather eventually said as Lily was having her makeup finalized.  They swapped copies and read through the annotations, before Amy said “I missed that one – good catch.”

 

“We’re even then – I missed one as well,” Heather said as Lily came back over.

 

“Well?”

 

“One or two things, but nothing to hold you up today,” Amy said as they returned the scripts.

 

“Damn – I knew I missed a couple – but that’s why I asked you both to be here,” Lily said as she passed the notes back to the producer, suggesting the changes to make.

 

“So how’s the life of a nanny,” Amy said with a smile.

 

“Sorry Amy – I’m loving it, and now that Sandy and I are out, to use the phrase…”

 

“I understand,” Amy said, “but the occasional project?  You did such a fantastic job on that brochure.”

 

“If time allows,” Heather whispered, “speaking of which, I met an Inspector Jeanne Marais last week.”

 

“Ah yes – perhaps we can speak of this in the room over there,” Amy said as they stood up and walked into a small ante room, Amy closing the door behind her.

 

“So what did the delightful Jeanne say to you,” Amy asked with a smile.

 

“You heard about the art robbery?”

 

“Oh yes – and the defacement of some fine paintings.  Were you there?”

 

“No, but Sandy was,” Heather said quietly.  “Anyway, Jeanne has asked me and mutual friend, Janice Carter, to help her dig a bit deeper.  Apparently – and she said I could tell you this – the paintings that were defaced were all forgeries.”

 

“Dammit,” Any swore as her face turned red, “I was afraid of this.  I asked Jeanne to come and see me when we identified a forgery at the gallery?”

 

Heather looked concerned as she said “which painting?”

 

“A Turner – it had been recently returned from a loan, but when I examined it was apparent to me something wasn’t quite right.  We withdrew it from public view, and I called Jeanne in to do some tests.”

 

“And it was a forgery?”

 

“Indeed.”

 

“Well, she’s trying to get to the bottom of things at that side – when she’s not bitching about a Doctor Stevens.”

 

“StJohn Stevens?  No love lost between those two, I can tell you.”

 

“Oh?  Do I hear scandal,” Heather said with a smile.

 

“Not in that way – although Stevens is a charmer.  No, more a mutual hatred.   What’s he doing there?”

 

“Lloyds sent him to investigate the thefts.”

 

“Did they really?”

 

Heather looked at Amy and said “What do you know, Prof?”

 

“I’ll tell you another time,” she said as she opened the door.  “Right now let’s get back to the filming.”

 

They left the room and walked in, Lily smiling at them as the director said “All right people, quiet please.   And…  Action!”

 

 

A while later, Lily came over and said “One down, several to go.”

 

“Hopefully those changes help,” Heather said with a smile.

 

"So how is Abby?" Lilly asked, "I missed her on her flying visit to do the VS show."

"She's rushed off her feet with a combination of work, school, and juggling two boyfriends," Heather looked round.

"Still the same two as at her beach party?"

"Yeah but I think the English one now has the advantage,"

 

“Good for him,” Lily said with a smile as Annie looked at the painting behind the wall.  Something about that painting caught her eye,

 

“What’s up,” Lily said as she looked at her friend.

 

“That’s a Gainsborough isn’t it?”

 

“I believe so, yes – why?”

 

“Can you find out something of the history?  It interests me…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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