The Women in White – Part 2








8 pm

Russian Fishing


“Mr Amkov – welcome, welcome, we have the table ready for you and your guests.”


“Thank you,” Dimitri said as he led the group through to a long wooden table, “Please, bring vodka and something suitable for the little one.”


“Some milk?”


“Excellent,” Dimitri said as Carina lifted Judith into the high chair.


“This is an interesting place,” Caroline said as she looked round.


“Indeed – it is modelled on an old fishing tavern,” Dimitri said as the waiter brought a bottle of vodka and seven glasses, as well as a glass of milk for Judith.


“Fank ew,” Judith said as she waited while the waiter poured the clear liquid into the other glasses, Dimitri handing them round.


"To three generations of models in the Huntingdown family?" Dimitri made the toast.

"To all of us," Juliette smiled as she downed the vodka in one shot.

"Oh WOW!" Mary coughed as the drink went down.

"WOW!" Judith copied as she drank her little glass of milk.


“Now then, we eat, and we enjoy the company,” Dimitri said as a woman, with long brown-grey hair, sat in front of a microphone, a man in traditional costume sitting next to her as he started to play the balalaika.


“That sounds familiar,” Juliette said, Dimitri smiling as she started to sing.


Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we could do

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I'd see you in the tavern
We'd smile at one another and we'd say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la...

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la...

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la...


“A beautiful song,” Mary said as the room applauded.


“A very old one,” Dimitri said, “I remember listening to it with my wife in East Berlin once.  We could hear it over the wall from somebody’s house.”


As the starters were brought in, Juliette turned to the photographer.


"Dimitri did you find that special thing I asked you about?"

"I did Juliette,” he said with a smile, “but can I ask why the mystery, and who are the pretty young ladies in the pictures you sent me?"

"It's a belated Christmas present from a friend of mine to her mother, the pictures are of her and her two daughters."

"Oh now I understand, but surely she could have found one in New York?"

"She searched high and low, but could she find a heart locket that allowed three pictures to be displayed?"

"Well then I'm glad I was able to help."

"I'd remembered seeing one here in Russia years ago, so I thought I'd ask if you could find one."

"Well I found also one for my daughter to hold pictures of her children."

"That sounds good."

"To families and friends," Dimitri clinked glasses in a toast.


“This is certainly good food,” Helen said as she ate another forkful, and then looked round.


“Yelena Fedorovna, chto na samom dele vy?” the tall, thin, dark-haired man with the neatly trimmed moustache asked as he passed by the table escorting two pretty women with long legs.


“K sozhaleniyu ya znayu, chto vy?” Helen tilted her head, there was something vaguely familiar about this man, but where from.


“Nu, ya dostatochno chasto tantsevala s vami, kogda vy byli malen'koy devochkoy.”


“Do I need to make an introduction?” Dimitri asked in English, with more than an amused look in his eye.


“Please Dimitri.”


“Helen York meet Andre Kannenikov.”


“Oh dear Lord!” Helen threw her hand to her mouth first, then leapt into the man’s arms. “UNCLE ANDRE!”


“Uncle?” the Russian man laughed, “now that is even more insulting than you not remembering me Yelena.”


“Everybody,” Helen said, “meet Andre Kannenikov, he was my mother’s greatest dance partner.”


“A pleasure,” he bowed from the waist, “and this is Ekaterina and Lizzy, two of the dancers who study under me at the academy.”


The two girls curtseyed as they talked to each other.


“So now you are teaching other dancers Uncle?”


“Well, age catches up with us all eventually,” Andre said with a smile.


“A friend gave me a wonderful present, a film of you and her dancing in Stockholm.”


“Ah yes – a truly great performance.  But on to other matters - Since when did you become Helen York?"

"Well the York came from my wonderful step-father, and Helen was because English speakers had difficulty with Yelena."

"Tell me...  Was she happy in the west?"

"Yes," Helen looked sad, "but it was for far too short a time, first her cancer, and then my father's murder." her voice tailed off.

"I understand," Andre patted her hand.  "So do you dance?"

"A little, but I also practice martial-arts."

"I am impressed."

"Well both use similar muscles," she blushed.

"And your job?"

"I work as chief assistant to the boss of Huntingdown's in Hong Kong, Juliette is my overall boss you could say. We manufacture and export clothes, accessories and fabrics."

"I am impressed again...  So why are you here in St Petersburg?"

"We are shooting a fashion spread and I'm acting as wardrobe mistress, Juliette needed a couple of Russian speakers so Marina who is my assistant in Hong Kong, and I got dragged along."


“And this would be Juliette, I take it?”


“An honour, Mister Kannenikov,” Juliette said as he kissed her hand, “I remember seeing you dance in New York.  This is my daughter Carina, and my granddaughter Judith, Caroline Jameson and Mary Clarke, my fellow models.”


“A pleasure to meet all of you,” Andre said with a genuine smile.  “Well, do not let me keep you from your meal.  Yelena, keep in touch.”  He handed her a card, and kissed her on both cheeks, before heading to his table.


“Your mother was a ballet dancer?” Mary said as she looked at Helen.


“She was one of the greatest,” Helen said quietly, “but she wanted me to grow up in freedom.  When my father died, she finally managed to escape to the west, and married my stepfather, Bruce York.”


“And Andre?”


“Ah Andre,” Helen said with a smile.  “He was the best friend and partner my mother ever had.  He taught me my first steps...”  Her mind went back to her childhood, before the fear, before the flight...


“Your main courses.”


“Are you all right,” Marina whispered to Helen in Cantonese as she looked at the far table.


“Yes – it was a lifetime ago.”


"He's very handsome," Mary spoke.

"Is he?" Helen paused, "I suppose he is, but he was always a friend to us, I'm not sure my Mother ever thought of him romantically."

"Is he gay or straight?" Carina asked as she wiped Judith's mouth.

"You know I never asked." Helen shook her head. "Dimitri probably knows."

"I do,” Dimitri said, “but I'm not telling such innocent ears as yours ladies.  Eat, eat!"


"I've never asked Dimitri but did you know my parents?"

"I'd met your father, your real father, a couple of times Helen, but I never met your mother, though I did see her dance. I was based in Moscow back in those days, and even though I had more freedom then most, the Leningrad and Moscow artistic circles rarely mixed."


"It was that sort of thing she hated." Helen shook her head, "Mama just got tired of being told all the time what she was to dance and when, she wanted the freedom to make her own artistic decisions."

"In Russia she was seen as a great classic ballerina."

"I know Dimitri, but she wanted to experiment with other forms of dance, she especially wanted to experiment with jazz music."

"Experimentation once you were in a niche was usually frowned upon."

"You know I've read about the Soviet era," Carina shook her head, "but only as history, you guys lived it."

"I'm the same, it was history when I was in school." Mary relished the salmon's taste.


"To my generation it is history," Alexei said from where he was sitting gazing at Mary. "But I know we are taught different things then you are in the west."

"How can you be?" Carina asked "History is History."

"Not here in Russia," Dimitri chuckled, "we have an old proverb, 'nobody can change the future, but the past may be changed in infinite ways."


“Our equivalent,” Caroline said, “is that History is written by the winners.  It’s why it is important to take all views into consideration.”


“Very true my dear,” Dimitri said, “Very true.”


10 pm Local Time


“I need to get Judith up to bed,” Carina said as she carried the sleeping girl in.


“I’m going to turn in as well,” Mary said.


“Me three – see you girls in the morning?”


“We won’t be long,” Helen said, “we have to discuss things for early tomorrow morning.  Caroline, can you spare a few minutes?”


Caroline looked at Helen and Marina, and said “of course.”


“You’d better come as well, Marina,” Helen said, the three women walking towards the bar where Viktor was sitting.


“Caroline, my dear, it is so good to see you again,” he said as they came over, “A drink?”


“It’s late and I’m tired Weasel,” Caroline said as she sat down.  “This, by the way, is Marina.  She is Helen’s assistant – in every way.”


Viktor looked at the young woman and said “I see – in every way?”


“In every way that matters,” Marina said as she sat down.


“So – Gromyko?”


“I spoke with the head – he offers his apologies.  Had he known this was under Madame’s umbrella, they would have stayed away.”


“Excellent – do inform the other heads this is off limits.”


“I have done – your worry is there are some young bucks,” Viktor said quietly as he slipped a sheet of paper over.  “You may wish to keep an eye out for them – freelance, may try something.”


“Very respectful Viktor – thank you,” Caroline said quietly.  “Helen, Marina, would you give me a moment with Viktor please.”


“Of course,” Helen said as she and Marina went to the corridor, Caroline moving over to sit next to the Weasel as she placed her hand on his lap.


"Now Weasel that I have you alone, what have you really been hearing?" Dominique asked.

"That some younger elements might be interested in kidnapping a model and ransoming back to the magazine."

"Is that why you were really at the airport this morning...and remember I can call Helen back into the room."

Viktor blanched at that thought, he knew enough of 'Silent Death' to know she would kill him without batting an eyelid as he slowly nodded.

"So I presume that you told them about Mary?"

"No..." he screamed as Dom squeezed his testacles, "Alright yes I did."

"Figures, creeps like you can always spot the weakest member of the herd.  Well, congratulations Viktor – you just got hired as a bodyguard, and if anyone – ANYONE – tries anything like that, they will not only face me, and Helen, and Marina – their families will as well.


“Once we have finished with you."


“Then you must prepare,” Viktor said, “for the word is they may do it tonight.”


Caroline stared for a moment at him, before she said “be at the Hermitage museum tomorrow, Weasel – and pray we stop this.”




Standing quickly up, Caroline walked out of the bar, leaving the Weasel groaning as Helen and Marina looked at her.


“We’ve got a problem – we need to talk to Juliette...”


10.30 pm Local Time


“Oh wonderful - and I thought this was going to be a routine modelling job." Juliette sighed.

"So did I." Carina looked up from making sure Judith was asleep.  “Are you sure?”


“It’s not unheard of,” Juliette said, “but at least you found out.  Who is this character anyway?”


“Viktor?  We used him last time I was here – and Helen and I will deal with him personally.  Right now, we need to move and move fast.”


Juliette thought for a moment, and then looked up.  "Okay Caroline, girls, do what you must, but just make sure that no hotel staff, innocent bystanders, or especially Mary know anything about it."

"Can I use deadly force?"

"As long as all evidence of it disappears."

"So I can't?"

"Carina darling,” Juliette said, “you leave far too much mess, and Diana isn't here to clean up."

"How good are you with bare hands Carina?" Marina asked.

"Pretty hopeless, now with a gun or a knife..."

"Yes but they leave evidence," Helen joined the chat, "Cari just for once you maybe ought to lay low..."

"And miss out on the fun entirely?" Cari smiled, "Helen you know me better than that."


“We will see – so, plan?”


“The only one we have a chance of implementing in time.  Marina?”


“On it – meet me there in thirty,” Marina said as she walked out of the room, and knocked on Mary’s door.


Mary was having a glass of water when she heard the knock.  Walking over, she looked through the spyhole and opened it to see Marina standing there.


“Mary, I hate to do this to you,” Marina said apologetically, “but the hotel has warned us of a cut to the heating in the rooms on this side of the hotel.  Juliette wants you and me to swap rooms, so you get a good night’s sleep.”


“Typical hotel,” Mary said with a smile, “at least they warned us.  Are you happy to do this Marina?”


“Hey, I’m from the UK – we like the cold.  Grab your toilet bag and follow me – you should be all right for coming here to change tomorrow.” 


Marina waited as Mary put on a dressing gown and collected her things, her eyes darting from side to side before she quickly walked Mary over and let her into her own room.  “I’ll make sure the alarm call is diverted to this room,” Marina said, Mary nodding as she closed the door and walked back down the corridor.


A few moments later, she heard a quiet knock on Mary’s door, opening it to let Helen in.


“Okay,” her mentor said as she closed the door, “we have the plan sorted out – you and I are going to wait here until they strike, and then...”






Friday 8th January

2 am Local Time


The room was in darkness, the only light coming from the digital clock as the green figures glowed to show the hour.  Under the covers the young model was sleeping, the duvet cover rising and falling gently as she breathed in and out.


It was the slightest of clicks, as the room door was opened, and the three men walked in.  They wore dark boiler suits, and even in the dim light cast by the corridor lights the stockings pulled down over their heads were visible.  As the door closed, the trio paused for a moment, to allow their eyesight to adjust to the darkness of the room, and then took up their positions around the bed, nodding to each other as one of them produced a handgun, and a second one reached down to pull the duvet cover back.


The third man was watching, a small bag in his hand, in which was the rope and tape they planned to use to keep their ‘guest’ quiet and under their control.  He didn’t hear the soft footstep behind him, or sense until it was too late the woman coming closer, until he suddenly said “Uk.”


“Chto eto,” the second intruder whispered as he turned to look, but the third intruder could only stare at him, before he slumped silently to the ground.  As this happened, the man holding the duvet suddenly felt it move, but before he could respond he felt the duvet move, as the pistol was kicked out of the hand of the first man, and he crumpled to the ground.


“Delo vy chuvstvuyete,” he heard a female voice behind him say in Russian, “eto tonkiy, ostryy nozh , kotoryy mozhet ochen' legko vvesti vas i rip vashe selezenki shiroko otkryty . Yedinstvennaya prichina, on ne sdelal tak , chtoby izbezhat' krovoprolitiya , tak chto vy sobirayetes' delat' imenno to, chto ya govoryu.”


“I ... I eto?”


“Krik v tishine,” Helen said as she pressed on his shoulder, and his face contorted under the stocking into a silent scream of pain, before he too slumped to the floor.  As he did so, Marina pushed down with her hands on the throat of the armed ma, until he fell silent.


“Is he still alive?”


Marina pressed her fingers to the side of his neck and nodded as Caroline and Carina came in, both dressed in black.


“They must have had a getaway vehicle somewhere,” Helen said as she looked at the first man she had touched.  He stared back at her as she pulled the stocking off with her gloved hand.


“Tell me where the car is and you live.  Do not and you die at my hand.  Speak or say goodbye to this life.”


He looked at the four women, and said “underground car park – black Daimler.  Who... Who are you?”


“Your worst nightmare,” Caroline said as Marina looked in the bag, and took out several black zipties.  “How unoriginal – you three secure them.  I’ll deal with the fourth person – we may need their car later.”




2.30 am Local Time


It gets very cold on St Petersburg at night, and especially so in the winter, as the heavy set man behind the wheel of the Daimler thought.  He had kept the car running, partly to keep the heater going, but mainly because once his three companions had brought their guest down, he wanted to get off quickly.


She had seen the photo – so young and innocent.  He hoped he had the chance to get to know her better while she stayed with them – but then, eh knew the other three would as well.


Still, at least there would be vodka and...


He saw the lift finally start to come down, and got out of the car, the breath condensing as soon as it left his mouth as he opened the trunk, cleared especially for the comfort of their guest.


He laughed at that – the comfort of his...


The twist on his neck was sudden, firm, and the crack unmistakable as Caroline stood behind him.  Lifting him as if he were a pillow, she dropped him into the trunk of the car, his eyes looking out at an impossible angle to the rest of his body, before she slammed the lid down, turned off the engine and locked the car, throwing the keys up and catching them before she went back to the lift.


She paused outside Marina’s door, listening to make sure Mary had not been disturbed, and then knocked softly on the other bedroom door.  As she walked in, Marina closed the door behind her, as she looked towards the side of the bed.


The three men were staring at her, their wrists ziptied behind their backs, their ankles secured in the same way, as Helen and Carina stood over them,   Two of them were still silent, their faces contorted in pain, but the third one was staring at the dark clad woman.


“A kto iz vas synov'ya sobak govorit' po-angliyski?”


The man looked at her, and spat as he said “Pochemu sprosite vy, - i kto ty takoy, chtoby delat' eto s nami?”


“What did he say?”


“He asked who we were, and why did we do what we did,” Helen said as she looked at him.  “Shall I tell him?”


“Oh why not,” Carina said, “I could do with a laugh before I begin.”


Kneeling in front of him, Helen smiled and said “YA Tikhaya Smert' - a eto moi druz'ya. V proshlom godu my byli nauchit' sem'i Boronov urok - teper', eto vasha ochered'.”


“And that was the reaction I expected,” Carina said as she heard the quiet trickle, and saw the damp patch on his trousers as they sat on the carpet.


“You...  You are Silent Death?”


“Ah excellent – you do speak English, that makes this much easier,” Helen said with a smile, “allow me to introduce my friends, because you may wish to remember this in the next few minutes.  My protégé, Mongoose.”


Marina gave a low bow, before Helen continued, “this fine lady you may recognise as Caroline Jameson, but you know of her under another name – Dominique.  As for my third friend – well, she remains anonymous, unless...”


“Oh it’s all right,” Carina said lightly, “I don’t mind, because they are not going to leave here and reveal this to anyone.  They call me Miss Lynx.”


“Net - ne ona , a ne psikhopat kisa ...”


“Did he say what I think he just said?”


“He did,” Marina said with a little smile.  She looked at the other two, whose eyes were moving over the three women.  “So, which of you big boys is going to be first?”


“Please, we meant no harm.  We are...  AAAHHHHHHHHH!”


He winced as Carina used a pair of nail clippers to trim a sliver of skin from his finger, and then pressed on the wound.


“Now then,” Caroline said as she stuffed a cloth into his mouth, “if you scream like that again I will kill you.  If you do not answer my questions to my satisfaction, not only will I kill you my friend here will do what she just did again. 


“So nod for yes, shake your head for no.  Are you here on behalf of one of the families?”


His eyes wide with fear, Caroline watched as they then narrowed, and he said nothing – only to scream in agony again as Carina touched the open wound.


“I asked a question,” Caroline said, “are you working for one of the families?”


The would-be kidnapper started sweating as he shook his head from side to side.


“Much better,” Helen said as she squatted in front of him.  “Do the three of you work alone?”


He nodded, Helen smiling as she pressed on the side of the neck and listened to his muffled scream.  “You are lying – I have dealt with your driver.  Who else do you work for?”




“So the four of you worked alone?”


He nodded as Carina snipped skin from a second finger, smiling as he screamed at the fresh wound being touched.


“You happy to continue explaining our displeasure to him, Miss Lynx?”


“Oh yes,” Carina said with a grin, as Caroline hauled the second kidnapper to his feet, and Helen gently touched him on the shoulder.


“What...  What did you do to me?”


“Your concern,” Helen said quietly, “is to answer my friend’s questions honestly.”


“Do you have any other ‘guests’ at this time?”


The man glanced at his colleague, who was whimpering as Carina continued to torture him, and nodded.




“If I tell you, I will die...”


“Little man – you are going to die anyway.  Die with honour, and say where they are held.  Then their deaths will not be on your hands.”


He glanced at the other three women, as Marina walked behind her, and said “They are in an abandoned warehouse at the docks, two guards.  Please...”




Carina looked over and watched as Marina pulled a silk scarf taut, and then wrapped it round his throat, pulling it around his neck as his eyes widened and a strange gurgling noise came from his throat.  Marina remained impassive as she pulled tighter, until his head fell to one side.




“You live by the sword, you die by the sword,” Carina said quietly as she watched Helen walk to the third kidnapper, and then pushed her gloved hand between the legs of the man, feeling his bulge as she squeezed hard and she moaned.


“Miss Lynx, observe this please.”


Carina watched, feeling the burning in her own loins as Helen knelt down, and looked into the eyes of the man, the tears running down his cheeks as she gently pressed on the side of his neck, and he gurgled before his head fell forward.


“Direct pressure on the Jugular?”


“Precisely – which brings us to our friend here.  I know your tastes, Miss Lynx, but here I think something more subtle is needed.”


She drew from her pocket a small metal icepick, and said “I will show you where.”


Carina took the small blade, and watched as Helen massaged the side of his neck.




She drove the pick straight through, feeling his body go limp as he died instantly – but there was no sign of blood round the wound as she removed the weapon.


“What did I do?”


“Bypassed the vein and arteries, and severed the nerve instead.”


“So how do we get the bodies out of here?”


“One at a time,” Caroline said as she looked at the door.  “The car they came in?”


“Downstairs, there’s someone in the boot, but I have the keys.”


“Okay then – Marina, take the keys and find the car.  We do this as quietly as possible,” she said as she removed the cloth from the mouth of the kidnapper, “and then we clean and tidy in here.  I’m going to make a phone call.”


“The Weasel?”


“The police first – they need to release whoever else they have.  I’ll dispose of the car – and then get a couple of hours sleep.  What about you lot?”


“Not a chance,” Carina said as she looked at the three men.  “Look at them – they suffered, they died, and there is no sign.”


“Except for that damp patch on the carpet – I’ll see if I can find some cleaner for that.”


“And this Weasel?”


“Our problem,” Helen said as she looked at Carina.  “Thank you for your help tonight.”


“Oh it was fun – I learned something new,” the small woman said with a grin.


“We got a problem,” Marina said as she came back in.  “The lift to the car park has been closed off for repairs.”


“Great,” Caroline said as she looked round, “what am I going to do now?”


“We’ll put them in my room for now,” Helen said as Marina walked to the window. 


“Hey – will you look at that?”


The others walked over as Helen whistled.  “Let’s get them to my room, and then I’ll grab a bottle while we head to the roof.”


4.15 am Local Time


“It has been so long since I have seen this, I must have been a toddler,” Helen said as she shipped her drink.


“Truly amazing,” Marina said, “nature in its greatest majesty.  The way the lights are dancing and moving.”


Caroline nodded as she took some pictures with her camera, the Aurora Borealis dancing over the roofs of the town as the four women watched.


“Judith would have loved to have seen this,” Carina said as she pulled her coat around herself.


“She would – but better she sleeps Carina.  We’ll just have to hope that the others get a chance to see this tomorrow night.”


“Well, if we are going to have a long night, this is certainly the way to do this,” Marina said as she sat down.


“Indeed,” Caroline said.  “but we all did good tonight – never forget that.”


They sat in silence as the bands of light danced over the sky, lost in wonder and strangeness...




6 am Local Time


“Hello,” Mary said as she picked up the telephone.


“Good morning, this is your alarm call...”


“Thank you,” Mary said as she put the phone down and stretched.  “Best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while,” she thought as she got out of the bed, and went to the toilet.  After flushing, she put on her dressing gown and walked back to her own room, knocking quietly on the door.


“Hey,” Marina said as she opened the door, “come away in.  I was just mopping up some spilt water.”


“You don’t have to do that,” Mary said as she closed the door, watching as Marina dabbed the floor with her wet cloth.


“No – my mess, my clean,” Marina said as she stood up.  “Besides, you need to start getting ready – you have that press interview to do with the ladies, and I need to grab a quick shower.”


“Okay – see you in a few minutes,” Mary said as Marina collected her key card and headed out, leaving Mary’s on the table.  Looking round, she sniffed the air and said “what did she spill?” before she headed to the shower.


6.30 am Local Time


“What’s the report about,” Caroline said as she joined Juliette and Helen in Juliette’s room.


“Police found three kidnapped young women in an abandoned warehouse down at the docs,” Helen said, “and arrested three men.  Anonymous tipoff apparently.  They’re also announcing your press conference in an hour.”


“Great,” Carina said as she yawned.


“Long night?”


“Busy one.”


Juliette smiled as she said “I take it you three know nothing about this?”


“Who, us?”


“Yes, you,” Juliette said, “how many?”




"Girls I want all evidence disposed of in a way that there is no way of tracing it back to us." Juliette smiled, "Now where are the corpses?"


“Well, one of them is in the trunk of a car downstairs that a certain contact of mine is coming to collect in half an hour,” Helen said as Caroline walked out.


“And the other three?”






“At the moment, they’re in my room, but while you do the interview I need to move them – my room is going to be the first to be cleaned.”


“Moved?  Where to...  Oh no, Judith, Carina...”


“You two and Mary are first up this morning, in the lobby, before we go to the museum.  That’s our window of opportunity.”


“Aren’t you meant to be downstairs?”


“Over to Marina and Caroline then.  Caroline is downstairs right now.”






“Hello Weasel,” Caroline said as she stepped out, “catch.”


She threw a set of car keys his way, and as he caught them said “Daimler over there.  Lose it, then meet me back here.”


“May I ask what happened last night?”


“Ask the guy in the trunk – he has a splitting neck ache though.  Don’t take too long.”



8.15 am


“Ladies and gentlemen, the press conference is now over.  Thank you for your time...”


As Marina talked to the assembled press, Juliette and Carina walked holding Judith’s hands, Caroline and Mary behind them.


“Well, that was interesting,” Mary said with a smile, “when is breakfast?”


“Nine – you’ve got time to change.”  Caroline watched as the tall blonde walked to her room, the skin tight leather pants rippling with each step, before she followed Juliette into the bedroom.




“Don’t open the wardrobe,” Helen said with a smile, “or look under the bed.  I just texted Marina to get a laundry basket and sneak it up here.”


"Caroline this is like a bad farce, bodies in the wardrobe, a body under the bed, what next - a priest comes running through my room without his pants on?"

"Orthodox or Catholic?"

"Does it matter?" Juliette rolled her eyes.

"Only in that most Orthodox priests do not wear pants."


Juliette looked at Caroline, and then burst out laughing.


“Gramma funny,” Judith said as she looked at her grandmother.


“Oh you have no idea,” Carina said as she tickled her daughter’s tummy.


There was a knock on the door, as Helen opened it and Marina wheeled in the trolley.


“Where to?”


“Wardrobe,” Helen said, Marina wheeling it to the inner room as Helen stepped out for a minute.


“I’m going to get ready,” Juliette said as she headed to the bathroom.  A few moments later, there was a knock on the door, Marina coming out and walking past Juliette as she opened the door and talked quietly.




Marina closed the door, shaking her head.  “Damn – and I had two sorted out...”


"You've got two of them in a laundry basket Marina?"

"Yes," the Londoner hissed back, "but the maid saw me wheeling it in, and now she's going to take the dirty linen downstairs to wash."

"Oy," Ju looked towards heaven as she came out, "I'll distract the maid, you find something else to carry them out in."

"Like what?"

"I don't know, get inventive."


“Okay – got an idea, but they’ll need to go in the bathroom,” Marina said as she ran to the bedroom, and pushed the trolley through, while Juliette opened the door and spoke to the maid.


“My apologies,” Marina said a minute later as she pushed the trolley out, “here is the dirty linen.”


The maid thanked her and wheeled the trolley out as Marina breathed a sigh of relief.


“Where are they,” Carina asked.


“In the bath – Helen, can we get one of the covered racks up here for this afternoon, and do a swap for an hour or two?”


“I’ll get on it – good thinking,” Helen said as she left the room.


“I meant to ask something last night, Marina – Mongoose?”


“Oh – that,” Marina said with a blush.  “Both the Honoured Mistress and Helen felt it was time Kylie and I had code names for our extra-curricular activities.  I am Māo yòu and Kylie is Tiān'é.”


“So you are Mongoose, and Kylie is?”


“Swan,” Juliette said.  “Rather appropriate, Catherine thought.”


“It is actually,” Caroline said with a grin.


“Well, even if we get them out of the room,” Carina said, “what are we going to do with the bodies?”


“Here – this isn’t needed until tonight,” Helen said as she wheeled in the covered clothes rack.


“Good – we hang the coats in the wardrobe, and put them in here,” Marina said as she and Catherine went into the bathroom.


"You know if I could get them to the furnace, we can maybe incinerate them?" asked Helen.

"No go, do you know how hot it has to be to burn a body?"

"No," Helen looked at Carina.

"Between 1,400 and 1,600 degrees Celsius, I think the guests might start complaining if their rooms got that hot...even here in Russia."

"Okay, Okay, it was only a suggestion Miss Genius...Do you have a better idea?"


“Anyone know a good acid bath?”


Helen looked at the young model, and slowly shook her head as the coat trolley was wheeled to the bathroom.


As the door was closed, the telephone rang and Juliette picked it up.


“Hello?  Yes this is Juliette Huntingdown?


“Well, if it is possible to wait ten minutes...


“He’s on his way up now,” she said as she watched Helen and Marina wheel the clothes trolley out, and there was a knock on the door.


“Who the hell is that now?”


“An engineer – come to check the plumbing.  Carina, we need to distract him so that we can get the body out from under here.”


“Oh dearest Artemis...  Keep him talking for five minutes,” Carina said as she kissed Carina and dived into the bathroom, the water running furiously after that.


“If anyone has Ray Clooney’s number, call him,” Caroline said.


“Who’s Ray Clooney?”


“Later,” Caroline said as Helen opened the door.  A tall stockily built man came in, wearing a boiler suit and said “plumbing needs fixing.”


“Well, it’s not exactly a convenient time,” Juliette said as she sat with Judith, Caroline closing the door.


“Fix now, good later,” he said as he walked over to the bathroom, Marina and Helen watching as she opened the door and looked in.


“Oh hello, can I help you?”


Juliette walked over to the bathroom door, as Caroline pulled the third body from under the bed and pushed it into the trolley, Helen closing it noiselessly.


“So...  So sorry, miss, I come back later.”


“Oh – the view not to your liking?”


“Sorry, sorry,” he said as he backed up and walked sheepishly out.


“We need to get this trolley down to the room now,” Helen said as she and Marina wheeled it out, Caroline smiling as she said “see you downstairs in ten.”


"I said distract him darling, not give him an eternal harden." Juliette spoke as she shook her head.

"Hey well at least I had the quick thought that if I undressed and dived in the bath he might well be distracted and give the girls a chance to get the body out?"

"It wasn't the nudity, it was what you were doing with that loofah that will warp his mind."


“Yeah – fun,” Carina said. 


“Momma wet?”


“Yup,” Judith said with a smile, “I’ll be ready in five, mom.”


There was a tap on the door as Juliette looked in the spy hole, and opened it to let Mary in.


“Has everyone else gone for breakfast?”


“I think so – Carina?”


“I’ll follow you down, can you take Judith for me?”


“Is she all right?”


“Yeah – Judith was a little sick, so she needs to change,” Juliette said as she picked her granddaughter up.  “Shall we?”




10 am Local Time



“Ah ladies,” Dimitri said as the women walked into the ballroom, “are we rested and ready to begin?”


“So long as you don’t mind swapping us with magazine interviews,” Juliette said.


“Of course, Helen?”


“Mary, Carina, can you come with me and bring Judith – we have some fox fur jackets for you both first today.”


“That – was close,” Juliette whispered to Caroline as they watched.  “Thank you for stopping it – seriously, thank you.”


"Kidnapping has long been one of the Russian mobster's favourite businesses Juliette. They grab someone related to someone they know has money and squeeze."

"I had read about it, I just didn't expect to experience it."

"Well it's my fault and I take full blame, I was overconfident in mine and Helen's talents, we should have booked bodyguards."

"But haven't I read that the bodyguards are often in with the kidnappers?"

"It has happened." Caroline shook her head. "Just be glad that I read that weasel Viktor's body language correctly, we were able to avoid a real incident."

"Not quite yet, or at least until you dispose of these bodies. Have you thought of putting them in the river?"

"Yes, but the ice is too thick."


“So what are you going to do?”


“Me - nothing,” Caroline said as she took out her cell phone.  “The shithead who got us into this mess, on the other hand – ah Viktor, where are you?


“Neat and pressed?  Good – get back here with a suitable vehicle – you’ve got three to pick up in a luggage trolley.”




“Can you come with me please Carina – Marina is helping Mary with an interview, so I get to be your translator.”


“Of course,” Carina said as she walked with her to a side room, the hairdresser playing with Judith as Juliette and Caroline posed for Dimitri.


“Where are they?”


“Awaiting collection.  Just be thankful that back home your Aunt Diana does all this." Helen whispered to Carina.


"Yes it's not as easy as it looks is it?"




"Anyway what am I going to be asked about here?"


"Mainly how you juggle life as a student, mother, and successful model."


"That sounds fair enough." Carina nodded.


"The magazine is one of those that appeals to young, aspirational, young women."


"Got it."


"So expect questions about time management as well as things about your clothes, your car..."


"Okay," Carina stood up as a well-dressed young woman in her late twenties approached.


"Hello," the woman shook hands.


"You must be Anna Burnova?" Helen shook hands.


"Sorry I speak only little English."


" Eto ne problema. YA perevedu vashi slovo Karina , a zatem obratno k vam."


“Please,” Carina said as she indicated an armchair, the journalist sitting opposite her as Helen sat between them.  Anna took a recorder out of her bag, and set it down before she smoothed her skirt down.


"Takim obrazom, Karina vy mozhete, pozhaluysta, obyasnite dlya moikh chitateley, pochemu vy nakhodites v Rossii?"


"She's asking why you are here?" Helen translated.


"Well principally we are shooting a fashion spread for Complete Style magazine, featuring lots of wonderful fur coats."


"My snimayem mody rasprostraneniye dlya ‘Complete Style’ zhurnala, pokazyvaya mnogo zamechatel'nykh pal'to iz mekha" .


"Da? On budet poyavlyat'sya zdes, v Rossii?"


"She's asking will it appear in Russia?"


"Only in the existing European editions I think."


"Eto dolzhno by tv izdaniyakh na angliyskom i frantsuzskom zhurnala."


Gradually Carina relaxed, it was a fairly routine interview and it took her mind off the bodies.  Helen was an excellent translator, keeping the conversation going until the time was up.


“Thank you,” Anna said as she shook Carina’s hand, and then walked off.


"Well do you think she got what she wanted?"

"Yes from the way she was talking she was more than happy with what you gave her. I think she loved the story about your Maserati and the speeding tickets. For girls over here being a model, and driving a Maserati are dreams they all seem to have."


“Good – now back to the matter at hand.  How do we get rid of the bodies?”


“That is about to happen,” Helen said as she saw Viktor standing in the doorway, dressed as a porter.  “You – come here.”


“Miss York – you called?”


“Yes – take the items in this rack,” she said as she pulled a closed off rack over, “and have them cleaned thoroughly.  They need to be at the Hermitage museum by three – understood?”


Viktor nodded as he signalled to a young man, the two of them wheeling the rack off as Caroline came over.


“Isn’t he the man I saw at the airport yesterday,” Mary said as she joined them.


“Don’t think so – let’s grab a drink while Dimitri is setting up.”




2 pm Local Time

The Hermitage Museum

“Here you go,” Juliette said as she passed Mary a bottle of water, watching as Caroline was on a bench with Judith, the two of them wearing fur bomber jackets as Caroline pointed out the pictures to the young girl, and Sergei worked his way round them.


“I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity, Miss Huntingdown...”


“Juliette, Mary – On this trip, I’m the model, not the boss.”


“Sorry – but seriously Juliette, this has been amazing.  I’m even starting to believe that...”




“That this could be a real job.  But I’m not ready to give up my chambermaid job – not yet anyway.”


“That’s fine,” Juliette said with a smile, “but when the time comes, Missy and I will support you every step of the way.  All of us will.”


“Thanks – you have to understand this is still all a dream to me.”


“Well, time to wake up,” Juliette said as Carina walked Judith over, “you’re up.”



4 pm Local Time


“And I believe we are done for today,” Sergei said as he looked over.  “Ladies, a pleasure once again.  We meet tomorrow at seven for the last shoot?”


“Indeed Sergei – we should have checked out of the hotel by then, and we’ll catch the early sun.”


“Excellent – clear up everyone...”


"Mary do you want to go buy some things to take home to your family?" Helen offered.

"Oh yes I suppose I should," the Californian smiled as she looked round.
"I can show you a place to get great things cheaper," Alexei volunteered.  “It is a short distance from here.”

"Well I like that word cheaper."

"Mary you can afford better quality you know."

"I know Juliette, but I still like being frugal. So Helen are you ready?"


“I am – Caroline, Marina, interested.”


“I have some business to take care of – but you go Marina.”


“I’d love to,” Marina said as she pulled her coat on.  “What are the plans for dinner tonight?”


“Let’s meet in the hotel lobby at eight,” Juliette said as the four young people went off.


“Helen and Marina will watch her,” Caroline said, “excuse me a moment.”


She walked slowly to a side door, where a thin, dark haired man was standing nervously.


“Viktor, how lovely to see you,” she said, smiling as she took him by the arm and walked him along the corridor.


“It is so good to see you as well, Caroline,” Viktor said, but the smile was fixed as she looked round, and then pushed him into a side room, closing the door behind them.




“I called in a favour – let us see the men have taken a trip into the Baltic and are enjoying a swim.  My dear Dominique, you must understand, had I known...”


“Weasel,” Caroline said quietly, “the only reason you are still walking this earth is because I like you, and you have your uses.  But so help me, if you pull a stunt like this with anyone I know, you will be joining those men at the bottom of the sea – and you’ll still be alive when you go in.  Bleeding, but alive.  I trust I make myself perfectly clear?”


“As clear as the river,” Viktor said as he swallowed. 


“Good – now get out of my sight.”


As he ran out of the room, Carina and Judith walked by and watched.


“Everything all right?”


“Oh yes,” Caroline said as she closed the door, “for the moment.”


“There you are,” Juliette said as she walked over.


"Mom we have to get Judith one of those little fur parkas, she's fallen in love..."

"All in hand darling, I spoke to the designer and he said take the one she likes most."

"Well that's a relief."

"So immediate plans darling?"

"I'm taking little one for a short sleigh ride...want to come Mom?"

"It's an idea.  Where do we go from?"


“If I read it correctly, we can get a sleigh to come here, and take us round the city before it deposits us at the hotel.”


“It’s a plan.  I’m just going to get a cab back – see you later.”


“Have fun,” Juliette said as they walked to the lobby, Carina talking to the woman at the desk before she came back.


“They’re bringing one round now,” she said, Judith looking outside until she said “PONIES!”


“That’s right Judith,” Cari said as the sleigh arrived, pulled by two white horses, “we’re going to ride back to the hotel in style.  Come on.”




5.30 pm Local Time


“Thank you,” Helen said as she took the bag and her change.


"Those nesting dolls are so kitsch." Marina shook her head.

"Well I'm not sure what that means," Mary smiled as she paid for her purchases, "but my two little sisters will love them."

"I bought that book of pictures of gardens for Pepsi's Mom, I know she doesn't speak Russian, but she will love all those pictures."

"Hey good for you Marina." Helen high-fived her, "what did you get Kylie?"

"That book with all the old Russian court dresses in, the text is in part in English, and she's going to love all the photos."

"I gotta agree with you Alexei, these prices are a whole lot more reasonable then in the souvenir shop at the hotel."

Alexei smiled as he said "I am glad you are happy Mary."


Marina and Helen looked at each other, before Helen said “Alexei, if you don’t mind being the only man, why don’t you join us for dinner tonight – our treat.”


Blushing, Alexei said “well, if you are all willing...”


“Why not – join us,” Mary said with a smile.  “Hadn’t we better head back to the hotel?”


“Of course – meet us there at about eight,” Helen said as Alexei bowed and walked off quickly.


“You do know he’s developing a crush on you Mary,” Marina said as Helen hailed a cab.


“What does that mean,” Mary said as she looked at the young Londoner.


Shaking her head, Marina said “Tell you later,” as they jumped in.



7 pm Local Time


“Thank you,” Mary said as she sat in the chair, smiling as she said “hey Dad.”


“You sound really awake today?”


“I feel it  - I slept really well last night,” Mary said with a smile.  “How’s the weather in San Fran?”


“Warm and smoggy at the same time.”


“Did Vicky do her inhaler?”


“Yes she did – and Tom says to tell you he got an A- for his report.”


“That’s great.”


"So Mary's how's it gone?"

"It's gone great Pop,” Mary said as she stood up and looked out of the window, “I've really enjoyed myself, and I even got time to do a little souvenir shopping."

"Well the kids will love that."

"I know.  I even got you something."

"So how did your interviews go?"

"They were nerve wracking. I'd far rather be posing and learning more about this business from a great photographer like Dimitri."

"But you did them?"

"Oh yeah, and Marina has made arrangements to get copies of everything for you guys to see."

"So,” her father said, “looking forward to getting home?"

"Yeah I've got the weekend in New York to do, but I'm so looking forward to seeing you all, and telling the girls at work all about this."

"Have you worn the clothes Miss Culver leant you?"

"Yes, and I've looked after them carefully. I have to say she did pick out just the right things."


“She’s a good friend Mary – lord knows you need more of them.”


“Maybe dad – but Helen and Marina have really looked after me.  It’s just a pity they’re based in Hong Kong.  But all the people here have been great.”


“Well, when will you next call?”


“I get into New York early afternoon their time tomorrow, so I’ll call once I’m settled at the hotel.  Miss Huntingdown has already invited me to join her for dinner tomorrow.”


“Good – safe journey Mary.  We all love and miss you.”


“Not as much as I miss all of you,” Mary said as she ended the call, and made her way to the bathroom.



10 pm Local Time

The Apartment of Dimitri and Ivana Amkov


“It was good of you to invite Alexei and I, Juliette – it makes an old man happy.  Come in, Come in.”


“Thank you for inviting us here,” Juliette said as they came into the large entrance hall, “this is amazing.”


“Indeed – we have managed to restore the whole apartment to something approaching the former glory, although gold paint is a little hard to come by, so we had to use Yellow instead.”


“Dimitri?  Is that you?”


“Ah – Ivana my dear, we have visitors.”


“Oh, who,” the female voice said, as a tall, broad shouldered woman came out, her grey hair in a tight bun.  She was wearing a simple grey dress and long boots, and smiled as she said “It is Juliette Huntingdown, correct?”


“Please forgive the unexpected visit, Madame Amkov,” Juliette said.


“Ah – Dimitri always brings his work home.  And who is this delightful little treasure?”


“My granddaughter Judith – the woman she’s trying to hide behind is my daughter Carina.”


“The tall blonde is Caroline Jameson, and the slightly smaller one Mary Clarke,” Dimitri said, “which leaves Helen and Marina, Juliette’s support team.”


“Well, come in come in – Dimitri, get them a drink and I will arrange some snacks. Alexei, come and help me.”


“Yes, Babushka,” Alexei said, Mary smiling at him as he followed his grandmother to the kitchen.


“come, come,” Dimitri said as they walked in to a high ceilinged room, tastefully furnished with a selection of couches.  “Be seated - I will bring drinks.”


“This is wonderful,” Carina said as Judith toddled round, “you really have captured that Romanov feel.  Abigail’s grandmother would love it.”


“Abigail?  Oh, you mean the Countess de Ros senior?  Yes, she would like this...”


“I never understood why the Soviet leaders felt the ordinary Soviet Citizen should have been denied this,” Caroline said as she accepted the drink.


“Well, what many of you are too young to remember,” Sergei said, “is the overwhelming desire of the Politburo to make all citizens equal – and to remove all signs of the former Tsarist trappings for those who were not in the upper echelons.  You have read Orwell, correct?”


“You mean Animal Farm?”


“Indeed – he was a true visionary on the way our society would evolve.  What is the closing line again?”


“No question now what has happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.”


Everyone turned to look at Mary, as she said “had I gone to college, I would have taken English Literature as my major.  I adore books – they are my one luxury.”


“Well, you have good taste, my dear,” Sergei said with a smile, “but Orwell’s point to me was along the same line as Lord Acton - Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.  Josef Stalin in that context was a very great man.”


“But that is all in the past now,” Ivana said as she and Alexei carried in some trays of food, “we live in a different age today, despite the way Putin sometimes acts.  There you go little one.”


“Thank you,” Judith said as she accepted the cup of juice and took a drink, then went to look out of the window.


“So how has my darling husband behaved himself for the last two days,” Ivana said as she picked up a blintz, “and more importantly, my grandson?”


“They’ve both been impeccable gentlemen,” Helen said with a smile.


“Be careful what you say, my dear,” Sergei said with a grin, “beneath that so so western exterior of Helen beats a Russian heart.”


“It does?”


Helen nodded as she said “I was born Yelena Fedoronova, in this city.”


Ivana looked closely at Helen, and then said “so this is a homecoming for you?”


“In many ways yes – I always enjoy coming back, even though these days I am based mainly in Hong Kong.”


“Helen’s real job is as the personal assistant to my colleague who runs the Hong Kong offices of my company – Marina works as Helen’s assistant and liaison between them and me in New York.”


“Ah – so do you speak Russian as well?”


“Some – my family are Ukrainian and Polish in origin,” Marina said as she sipped her drink.




“Yes Judith, what is it,” Carina said as she looked round.


“Look,” she said as she toddled over, took her mother’s hand and pointed into the sky, the snowflakes falling from the sky.


“Is something wrong,” Juliette said.


“No,” Carina said, “the Northern Lights are shining.”


“They are?  Then we must go and look,” Sergei said as he stood up.  “Coats and shoes on, and then out to the courtyard.”


“This I have got to see,” Mary said as they all stood and followed Sergei, the group making their way out of the apartment and into the outer courtyard.  The snow had been falling all evening, as they all looked up into the night sky, Mary taking pictures, as they stood entranced.


"Momma look at the pretties." Judith pointed to the lights blazing in the clear dark sky and reflecting in the fresh white snow.

"They are lovely." Carina smiled, for a few seconds she remembered what Lexa had written in her diary about visiting this city in 1894, and the lovely gas lights of the period. "Must have been so romantic," she whispered to herself.


“Truly astounding,” Sergei said quietly, “and a constant reminder that no matter what we do, nature will always trump us...”



Saturday 9th January

7 am Local Time

The Four Seasons Hotel


“Well, that’s the hotel bill settled,” Juliette said as she walked over, “and the cases are in storage.  The coats for today?”


“In the rack over here,” Helen said as Dimitri and his team walked over.


“These are the garments for today?  Excellent – we shall head to the gardens and make full use of this beautiful sun.  Boris – can we have coffee delivered to the patio?”


“I will take care of it,” the concierge said with a bow, as they made their way to the room that had been reserved.


“We begin,” Sergei said, “with Juliette, Carina and the gorgeous Judith making a snowman.  Ladies – get ready!”


“And for us?”


“Oh I wish you two beautiful ladies to begin to get ready as well – I see a place for you against those trees over there...”


Caroline and Mary looked across the snow covered courtyard, before Mary said “I’m glad I put these boots on now.”


“Me too – right, let’s get to the girls...”


10.30 am Local Time

The Four Seasons Hotel


“So my dear Juliette,” Sergei said as he stood to one side.  “Your verdict?”


“Sergei you are a miracle worker,” Juliette said as she kissed the old man, “these are magnificent, and you deserve a bonus.  Anna is going to be over the moon.”


“Then I am content,” Sergei said with a smile.  “I will ensure Anna gets these by the time you return home.  It has been a true pleasure to finally work with you – all of you.”


“And with you, my friend,” Juliette said as she kissed Sergei.


“Save travels to you all – and cherish young Judith.  There is a star in the making there as bright as young Mary.”


“I know,” she said as she saw Carina playing with Judith, and Mary talking to Alexei with Helen and Marina.


“Ready to get home,” Caroline said as she came over.


“Ready to sleep on the plane, to tell the honest truth,” Juliette said as she looked round.



"Look at Alexei, he's having such difficulty asking Mary for her e-mail address." Caroline smiled.

"I know, the poor boy is totally smitten." Juliette smiled back.

"Well he's a nice kid, and she's a very nice girl."

"She is, and she's not going to let this business change her."

"Well Ju have you seen some of the pictures Dimitri has got of her. I'm predicting superstardom for Mary."

"Well I'm convinced of that, you are convinced of that, now the only person we need convince is Mary."


“Who is doing the shoot tomorrow?”


“Jack – but you’re busy all day!”


“I know – but I may pop round to see her later once the girls have gone their own way.”


On the other side of the room, Helen watched as Marina organised loading the cases into the car.


"How are you doing Marina?" She smiled as she came alongside her.

"Tired,” Marina said, “but feeling good that this all worked out so well Helen."

"Well to quote a phrase, you done good kid.  We’ll get some sleep on the plane back, and then we have tickets booked on the plane on Sunday."

"Well,” Marina said, “I've enjoyed all the various challenges."

"Even the unexpected ones?"

"Surprisingly yes." Marina glanced round. "So is everything ready for shipping out?"

"Yes, all the paperwork is filed, next step is unloading it in New York."


“Great – I wonder what they’ve got to eat on the plane.”


“Listen,” Helen said, “I know your time with us doesn’t  end until the end of May, but have you started to consider future moves.”


“Yeah,” Marina whispered, “but I don’t want to make any decisions until Kylie decides what she wants to do.”


“I understand – but you need to realise something,” Helen said.  “I know the Honoured Mistress speaks highly of you, and you have impressed not just Juliette and me, but I think others as well.”


“Which means?”


“Your talents are being recognised in many areas, Marina – be aware of that.”


12 pm Local Time

Pulkovo International Airport


“That’s better,” Mary said as she stowed her boots in the overhead locker, and sat down, strapping herself into the seat as she stretched her legs out.  “those boots felt wonderful, but I just want to rest my feet now.”


“I can understand that feeling,” Carina said as she strapped Judith into her seat, and then sat down herself, “it’s been an amazing few days, but I am ready to get home now.”




“There you go,” Juliette said as she handed her granddaughter the rabbit, Judith smiling as the pilot came in.


“We’re all loaded and cleared Miss Huntingdown – we’ll move off in five minutes.”


“Thank you,” Juliette said as the steward closed the door, and then strapped himself in.


“So when do we get back?”


“Between 5 and 6 at night local time, depending on the wind,” Caroline said. 


“Well, i have a couple of bottles of something nice stowed for when we are airborne,” Juliette said as the plane started to move, “and a good meal for all of us I hope.  Then we can dose for a few hours.”


The group nodded as the plane slowly taxied to the end of the runaway, and then started accelerating.


“WWHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” Judith called out as the plane smoothly took off, and started to climb, leaving the snow covered ground far behind...



“Ladies, you may now remove your seatbelts, and we will serve lunch shortly.”


“Good,” Marina said as she unbuckled herself, the steward opening a bottle of champagne and pouring the drink into glasses.


"Mom did you remember to distribute the bonuses to all Dimitri's support people?" Carina sat upright in her seat.

"Yes,” Juliette said as she unbuckled Judith, “I personally made sure each of them got what we had agreed upon."

"Oh good," Carina relaxed. "It's just that they were all so great."

"I agree, just for once it was a genuine pleasure working with a crew."

"Did you read what Ingy said about Pops speech last night?"

"I saw her e-mail yes...Seems he put his audience to sleep in record time talking about the glories of Furstenheim."

"Well it is a rather dry subject," Carina said with a chuckle.

"Changing topics,” Juliette said as she accepted a glass, “did you and Annie talk?"

"Yes, she's great, Ama is great, baby to be is great, the only thing wrong is that she's snowed under prepping training schedules ahead of the Indoors."


“I thought she was stepping back?”


“After the Vanderbilt, yes – she’s only just realised, however, that one of her chief assistants will not be there for the event itself.”


“Oh – oh of course, Abby will be in Vienna.”  Juliette shook her head and smiled.  “Just means that's one event Abby will not work either as yearbook photographer, or as a trainer with the team.  Others can fill in perfectly well.”


“Yup – so she wants them laid down first.  Caroline?”




“I know Ama is priority one when you get back, but after that, convince my lover to slow down, please?”


“Oh good – another impossible job,” Caroline said with a smile, “my life is full...”



10 am

Xavier International




“Good morning Madame.”


“Susan – the morning report?”


“Right here.  Juliette's plane is in the air as we speak Madame." Susan came in carrying a document folder, "and this is the latest workup from Heather."

"Well I heard from Marina that the shoot was a triumph, and the only excitement was local in nature."

"She e-mailed me as well...Now turning to Heather's research she can't see any obvious signs that someone up there is on the take."

"She maybe needs to spread her net, look at spouses and kids financials."

"She's doing it as we speak."

"If we can hide income then I'm sure whoever is helping the baddies up there can too."

"Agreed." Susan nodded.

"Have you also processed that information that Doc brought home from Buffalo?"


“Indeed – sketchy at best, but the indications are they are moving into the areas we have no presence in.  When Juliette and Dom are back, we should meet and look into possibly sending a team up to get more ground level intel.”


“Worth consideration – did Kylie and Susan get away safely?”


“They did – Marina and Helen are staying with me tonight before they leave tomorrow.”


“Good – now, talking of those in the air.  The present for Ama?”


“Has been safely delivered here.  Would you care to see it?”


“Later – let’s deal with other business now...”



The Inn in the Park


“Thank you,” Tom Callaghan said as he took the menu, “some water for all three of us please.”


"Well to what do we owe the pleasure of you buying us lunch Tom?" Adam asked as he looked at the menu.

"It's to brief you both on a development,” Tom said, “and I didn't want ears at the office to hear."

"Oh?" Janice cocked her head.

"Yeah." Tom breathed deeply, and looked round.  "There has been nothing back in reply regarding that alert you got me to get Headquarters to put out Jan."

"Ummm would someone care to fill me in?" Adam asked quietly.

"Jan suspects we may have a rotten apple in the Buffalo barrel."

"Oh Crap...” Adam said as he looked round, “Why?"

"Because I'm hearing little whispers about Pussycat action in Buffalo,” Jan said, “and we aren't being told of it through channels Adam."

"Maybe they aren't hearing the whispers you are Jan?"

"There were two gang massacres New Years Eve Adam, I'm hearing pussycat, pussycat, and they aren't?"

"Okay point taken."

"So Jan has the idea if we can turn whoever is covering up..."

"...we will maybe be able to get to the bitches?"

"That was Jan's thinking," Tom paused, "so we haven't alerted IA, and this secret is known to just the three of us."


“So next moves?”


“Time to call on Agent Peter Welch – I knew him in Quantico, and I’d trust him almost as much as I trust you Adam.”


“Book a flight up Monday Jan, talk to him on the QT, see if he’s heard anything.  In the meantime, I’ll talk to some friends in the area.”


“Good idea Adam – but do this carefully.  The last thing we need is IA hitting us.”


“Don’t worry,” Jan said, “kid gloves all the way.”



2 pm

JFK Airport


“Well, here we are again,” Olivia said as she and Fiona walked through the arrivals doors.


“Indeed, Mum,” Fiona said as she walked through, her hair held back in a ponytail, “but this time we have the menfolk with us.  Is this your first time here, Dad?”


“It’s been quite some time,” Charles Treharran said as he pushed the trolley, “I don’t globetrot as much as Michael here.”


“All right,” Mick said as he saw the waiting chauffer, “let’s just get to the Waldorf Astoria before we start planning the next few weeks.  Is Diana still expecting us for dinner tonight?”


“She is – it will be good to see her again,” Olivia said as she adjusted her glasses.


“Yes – yes it will,” Fiona said with a smile.


“When do the other White Ladies arrive?”


“Those who work with Missy and Juliette are due to fly in today, so that we have the shoot tomorrow,” Fi said, “the rest over the next week or so.”


“Should be a fun fortnight then,” Mick said with a smile.



5 pm


“Mary?  Mary?”


Mary slowly opened her eyes to see Marina looking at her.


“Did I dose off?”


“You’re not the only one,” Marina said as she saw the others stretching, “but the pilot just told us we are making our approach.  We should be down on the ground in about thirty minutes.”


“What time is it?”


“Just after five EST – we got a good tailwind behind us.  Here – some water.”


“Thank you,” Mary said as she took the bottle, her eyes popping as she realised the plane was starting the descent.


“Nearly home, Judith,” Juliette said as she strapped her granddaughter in, “looking forward to seeing Grappy and Aunty Ingy?”


“Yes,” Judith said as she nodded, clutching her rabbit as the others sat up.  The plane slowly descended as they all looked out of the window, the sky dark as the lights of the runway slowly approached.


“And – touchdown,” Caroline said as the plane bumped and slowed down, Mary breathing a huge sigh of relief as the pilot said “we’ve arrived back Ladies.  Please remain seated until we come to a complete standstill.  I understand we have two cars waiting for you.”


“Two cars?”


Probably one for you and one for us,” Caroline said as she looked at Carina.  “Makes sense if you are all going back to the apartment.”


The plane slowly taxied over and came to a stop, Juliette unbuckling and the rest following suit as they put their boots and coats on.  The steward opened the door to the jet and lowered the steps, Helen looking out first.


“Hello Clint, Hello John,” she said as she walked down, “who gets who?”


“I will be taking you, Caroline, Mary and Marina,” Clint said, “while John will take assorted Huntingdown’s home.”


“Welcome back,” John said as Juliette and Carina came down, Judith in Carina’s arms, “let’s get your cases in and back to your apartment as quickly as possible.”


“Thanks John,” Juliette said as the steward brought their cases down, and put them in the boot, “I cannot wait to get home.”


“I will drop you at the Astoria Waldorf first, Mary,” Clint said as he put her case in, “and drop Caroline off before I take these two home.  Susan has a good meal waiting for you, and wants you to tell her everything.”


“What time is Jack expecting us tomorrow Juliette?”


“At eleven I think – so you get the chance for a real long sleep.”


“Well, I have to call home, and other things – but yeah, I could use the rest.”


“Right – all loaded up.  We’ll see you all at some point tomorrow.”


The drivers closed the doors and headed off, Judith looking out of the window as they got onto the main road.




6.30 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Hello?  Anybody home?”


“There you are,” Klaus said as he and Ingrid came out of the drawing room, “how was St Petersburg?”


“Divine and exhausting at the same time,” Juliette said before they kissed.


“Grappy,” Judith said as she ran out, her arms extended as Klaus squatted down and then lifted her off her feet.


“Hello little one – did you have fun?”


“We saw ponies and pretties in the sky.”


“Really?  What was it?”


“The Northern Lights,” Carina said, “they were truly beautiful.”


“Oh is that coffee I smell,” Juliette said as she took her coat off.


“It most certainly is – all three of you go in and sit down.  Ingrid is cooking, and I will bring the drinks in.”



“Oh it is so good to be home,” Carina said as she slumped into a seat.  “I could do with an early night.”


“Well we need to,” Klaus said, “we have an appointment at St Martha’s tomorrow, remember?”


“Of course – I haven’t forgotten,” Juliette said with a smile as she took the mug of coffee.



6.45 pm

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel


“Here we go Miss Clarke,” the desk clerk said as he handed Mary her room key.  “Enjoy your stay.”


“I’ll settle for a meal and a long sleep,” Mary said with a smile as the porter took her bad and they headed for the lift.  As the doors opened, however, she was greeted with a cry of “MARY!”


“Hello Trina,” Mary said with a smile, “you arrived safely then.”


“I did – and those look good on you girl,” Trina Culver said as she looked at Mary, wearing the black jumper, jeans and boots.  “How was Russia?”


“Cold and amazing.”


“Right – go and unpack, and then come to the bar over there.  Some of the girls are gathering for a drink – it’ll be good for you to meet them before tomorrow.”


“Trina, I just got off a twelve hour flight...”


“All the more reason to unwind – it’s a drink, not dinner.”


"Trina I need to ring my Pop and let him know I'm back in the US of A."

"I guess so, but try making it quick, there are people you ought to meet."

"Okay, I'll try and be as short as I can be."


“I’ll see you in a few minutes,” Trina said as Mary got in the lift.


“Oh lord, when does this end,” she said with a smile as the doors closed...




A few minutes later, she slipped the porter a tip and looked out over the lit cityscape.


“It’ll never be the same as San Fran,” she said to herself as she hung her coat up, and then took her cell phone out of her handbag.  She looked through her contacts and then pressed on the screen.


"Hey Pop,” she said as the call was answered, “I'm at the hotel in New York."

"Okay Mary,” she heard her father say, “how was the flight?"

"Couldn't tell you,” Mary said with a smile, “I was asleep for most of it."

"Hey my globetrotting daughter is getting blasé enough about travel you can sleep on planes?"

"I guess so Pop," Mary laughed lightly."Anyway Miss Culver wants me to meet some of her friends, and I'm pretty sure Juliette said Missy Auerbach will be dropping in as well."

"So what do you think Miss Auerbach will say?"

"That Russia was a big success...everyone is agreed upon that. I also got a couple of tentative bookings from Russian magazines to shoot spreads here at home, so I guess details on that."

"Sounds good, the kids by the way can't wait to see you."

"And I can't wait to see them Pops."

"Do you want me to ring the hotel, tell 'em you are back in New York?"

"Please and tell them I have lots to show and tell when I report for work."

"Will do Mary.  Have a good time tomorrow."


“You too Pops,” Mary said as she heard a knock on the door.  Ending the call, she walked over and opened it to see Carmelita standing outside.


“Hello again Mary – can I turn your sheets down?”


“Got time for a chat as well?”


7 pm

The Village


“Someone stick a fork in me and turn me over – I am done.”


“Welcome home Mom,” Ama said as she hugged Caroline, “how was the trip?”


“Good fun,” Caroline said as she slipped her coat off, “but it is so good to be back.  How are you?”


“Excited about tomorrow,” Ama said as Annie looked out from the kitchen.


“Hey – bring anything back this time?”


“Too busy to go shopping,” Caroline said as she slipped her wig off, and let her black hair fall down.  “And too tired to do much more than slob out tonight, then get an early night.  What’s for eating?”


“I’m preparing some Spagh Bol.  Big bowls, drinks and a movie?”


“Sounds wonderful,” Dom said as she sat down and took her boots off, “absolutely wonderful.”


7.30 pm

The Waldorf Astoria


“Mary!  Over Here!”


Mary smiled as she made her way over to the booth, Trina standing up to let her take a seat.


“Let me make the introductions.  Mary Clarke, this is Charly Elphberg and Brigitte Karonsky.  They’re both doing the season with me, as well as the shoot tomorrow.”


“Pleasure,” Mary said as she shook their hands, “so are you heiresses like Trina here?”


“In a way,” Charly said with a smile, “but this weekend, we’re all the latest recruits to NorStar.  Mind you, from what Trina said while we were waiting, you’ve got the head start.  Modelling in St Petersburg – truly magical.”


“So who else is doing the shoot tomorrow?”


“Cousin Abby,” Brigitte said as she sipped her wine, “she’s hosting a dinner tonight for Fi and Angel.”


“Fi’s here?  I thought with her eyesight...”


“Did you see the UK Cosmo?  The shoot with her and her mother?”


“Yeah,” Charly said, “it was amazing.  I’ve got a copy with me – remind me to bring it tomorrow.”


“I’m sorry,” Mary said, “who are you talking about?”


“Oh sorry Mary – they are talking about Angel Fitzstuart, Fi Treharran – and Abby de Ros.”


“Abby...  Abby de Ros?  I’m doing a shoot with Abby de Ros?”


“Mary,” Trina said with a smile, “you’ve just spent three days with Caroline Jameson and the Huntingdown family – I think you’ve earned your place with Abby now.”


Mary blushed as she sipped her wine, before a familiar voice said “hello ladies.”


“Hello Missy,” Trina said as she looked at the legendary agent, “is Juliette coming tonight?”


“She sends her apologies – as Mary will tell you, they had a very busy few days, and Caroline’s daughter has a special day tomorrow.  I think the word, if I was quoting Klaus, would be todmüde.”


“Exhausted,” Charly said as she smiled at Mary.


“I can understand that feeling,” she replied as she stopped a yawn.


"So Mary have you got a few seconds to talk business?" Missy asked.

"I guess so," Mary looked at Trina who nodded.  “Do you want to go over to the bar?”


“We’ll get another drink for you,” Trina said as she went over with Missy.

"So,” Missy said quietly, “did you enjoy Russia?"

"Yes, it was WONDERFUL!  I can’t thank you enough for giving me the opportunity."

"Well Russia enjoyed you too,” Missy said, “I have three bookings that I'm going to recommend you take, and they are all prepared to travel to Frisco to shoot."

"They are coming to me?"

"When you are hot kiddo,” the agent said, “you'll be amazed what magazines will do."

"Okay Missy, what else do I need to think about?"

Missy looked carefully at the young woman.  "How much work you want to do?"

"At the hotel? I have so much lost time I owe them."

"No modeling work...Mary I can book you solid almost for the next few months."

"It's that almost which worries me Missy...  I need stability for my family."

"...look Mary,” Juliette said quietly, “talk it over with your father and your friends, but really you need to consider if it is time to go full-time."


“Okay – I can think about it, but no promises,” Mary said with a smile.


“Missy, my dear – what are you doing here?”


“Meeting some youngsters - Mary I want you to meet someone rather special," Missy smiled, "this lady is Eve Stone, she was and is still in many ways a very famous model."

"It's a pleasure to meet you Miss Stone."

"Mary call me Eve,” the Irish beauty laughed, ”because if you were being formal it would be Lady Eve, or Mrs. Stone, and I rarely answer to either of those names."

"Alright Eve," Mary shook the tall Irish lady’s hand. "So how long have you been a model?"

"Since before probably even your parents were born." Eve's eyes danced, "along with girls like Vera and Lesley, I'm one of the last so-called sixties dolly birds."

"WOW!" Mary looked shocked, "you don't look old enough..."

"Missy you know I like this child...a lot." Eve chuckled, “but wait till you meet Carmen she's from an even earlier generation then I am...and she's still working."



“Leave the poor girl be Eve -  go and have some fun Mary.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”


“So what did Missy want,” Charly said as Mary rejoined the girls.


“To give me something to think about,” Mary said as she picked up her glass and took a sip.



9 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“Now that was good,” Carina said as she lifted her sleeping daughter up and carried her to the stairs, “she want to sleep far more easily than I had thought it would be.”


“Well, she was tired,” Ingrid said as she sat down.


"So I heard your speech to the Heritage society went well." Juliette cuddled up to Klaus on the sofa.

"Tolerably,” Klaus said, “but if I ever do it again then I need better visual aids, and maybe the sounds of cannons going off to keep people awake."

"Maybe." Juliette chuckled.

"I did inspire one person at least though."

"Oh yes?  And who was this bastion of attentive listening?"

"A chap called Edwin Breitz came up afterwards and we had a long chat."

"Edwin Breitz...  Edwin Breitz the documentary maker?"

"That's the you know him darling?"

"No but I've seen his films...  You remember, we watched that thing he did on Windsor Castle together before Christmas."

"Oh he made that did he?”  Klaus nodded before he continued “anyway, he wants to maybe do a film on Furstenheim and the family. I said I'd talk it over with you."

"What kind of film?" Juliette asked, "I'm not having a film crew practically move in with us."

"He said maybe some shots of our lives, but he's most interested in Furstenheim and the family history, and why i have my little army."


“While we’re preparing for the wedding?  I can think of one or two people who might object...”


“Don’t worry,” Klaus said, “I am sure you will see nothing of him when he is not needed...”


“So,” Juliette said, “what would you say to an early night?”


“I’d say yes,” Klaus whispered, “if you promise not to fall asleep within five minutes of getting in bed.”


“Well, you’ll just have to keep me awake,” Juliette giggled.


Sunday 10th January

8 am

The Village


“Hey Ju – what brings you over this early,” Annie said as she opened the door.


“I found something of Caroline’s in my luggage, so I thought I’d bring it over before things started to go crazy,” Juliette said as she came up.  “Hello Alex – you’re up and about early.”


“I needed to sit with Caroline and Ama before I went to prepare,” Alex Richmond said from his seat, “and given you had her in your tender care until later yesterday, this is the only opportunity.”


“Forgive the dress sense,” Caroline said as she and Ama sat in dressing gowns.


“I only have two more questions.  First - have you decided upon the names that you wish to be baptized under Ama?"

"If no one objects,” Ama said quietly, “I want to be baptized as Amamaria to honor our lady, and then Marastella to honour my African mother and my English grandmother."

"I think that can be done," Alex felt himself choking on emotion.

"Oh they would all be so proud of you..."  Tears escaped down Caroline's cheek as she hugged her daughter.


“And the second question – are you ready?”


“For today yes – I can do no more than that.”


“Then,” Alex said as he stood up, “I will see you at the chapel later.  Juliette?”


“I’ll show you out, Alex,” Annie said as she walked down with Alex, Ama heading to the bathroom as Juliette and Caroline headed to the kitchen.


"Who are the godparents to be?" Juliette asked, "she hadn't decided when we last talked about it."

"She's asked for Karen and Shirley to be her godmothers, and for Clint to be her godfather."

"Those are good choices Caroline.”  Juliette took the offered cup of coffee and had a ling drink.  "So is your grandfather settled in his hotel?"


“Yup – he’ll meet us at the chapel.  I called him first chance I got last night to make sure everything was all right.”


“Well,” Juliette said as she placed the package on the table, “this is our present to her.  Please, make sure she gets it later, not before – she will understand why when she opens it.”


Caroline nodded as she sipped her coffee. 




10 am

The Village


“Hello Dan,” Annie said as she opened the door, “come on up.”


“Has my granddaughter recovered from her flight,” Dan Jameson said as he walked up the stairs.


“Just about – she is just getting dressed,” Annie said, “can I get you a coffee?”


“Please,” Dan said as he fiddled with his tie.


“Well, you’re looking distinguished.”


“And you look like a proud mother,” Dan said as he hugged Caroline.  She was wearing a grey two piece suit over a dusky peach camisole top.  “So where is she?”


“Hello Granddad.”


Dan looked over to see Ama standing in her bedroom door.  The young girl was wearing a knee length white lace dress with elbow length sleeves, a thin belt fastened round her waist, and white high heels.


“You look like an angel,” Dan said quietly.


“Thank you,” Ama said quietly as she smiled.


“Annie, you need to finish getting ready.  I’ll just go and get my coat,” Caroline said as she went to her room.


"I'm proud of you lass,” Dan said as he sat with Ama, “and so would your Gran and Great Gran be if they were still with us."

"You aren't disappointed I've chosen to become a Catholic rather than an Episcopalian Granddad?"

"Ama,” Dan said, “I'm just proud that you thought it out carefully and made up your own mind, and i respect your decision."

"Well Father Alex and I talked long and hard about it, and i decided that a church that has men like him is for me."

"Your Gran, and from what I can gather your Mum aren't, or weren't exactly religious, but I'm glad you have decided there is a higher power."


“Oh Mom does have her own faith,” Ama said quietly, “and she has supported me every step of the way.”


“Right,” Annie said as she came out, fastening her great coat around herself, “you ready?”


“I need to get my coat,” Ama said as she stood up, and Caroline came out.


“So, a special day?”


“Very special,” Caroline said with a smile, “as you will see...”




11 am

St Martha’s Church


Alex Richmond walked out in his vestments, accompanied by his assistants, and knelt at the altar as he prayed, and then said “God, come to my rescue.”


“Lord, make haste to help me.”


“Glory be to the Father.”


“As it was in the beginning.”


He turned and smiled as he held out his arms, saying “welcome, all of you, to our service this morning.  I know we have many visitors here, and to you I say you too are most welcome to the House of the Lord.”


He smiled in the direction of Mary as she sat with Erica and Denise, as the rest of Ama’s friends and classmates sat with their parents and families.


“As part of our mass this morning, we welcome into the family of our church Ama, who seeks to be baptised into the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  This is a very special and solemn moment, and I ask you all to join in supporting her in this.  Before we do this, however, join in singing our first hymn...”



After the hymn, the congregation joined in the readings and prayers, until Alex said “Let us pray.


“Almighty, everlasting God, who enable us, your servants, in our profession of the true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the three Persons in the eternal Godhead, and to adore their oneness of nature, their co-equal majesty; grant, we pray, that by steadfastness in that faith we may ever be guarded against all adversity.


“Hear our prayer, almighty God, so that what we purpose to do by our lowly ministry may have its full effect by your power.


“We beg you, O Lord, grant that our chosen one, well instructed in the holy mysteries, may be born again in the font of baptism and be added to the household of your Church; through Christ our Lord.”


“Amen,” the church replied as in the vestibule of the church Ama walked in, alongside Karen, Shirley and Clint.




“A little,” Ama whispered as she turned to Karen, “but I am ready.”


As the congregation sat, Alex looked up and said “Amamaria Marastella Jameson?”


“Amamaria Marastella,” Pepsi whispered to Becca.


“I know – perhaps she will be like Cari with her full name,” Becca whispered back as Ama called out “Present.”


“Amamaria, what are you asking of God's church?”




“What does faith hold out to you?”


“Everlasting life.”


“If, then, you wish to inherit everlasting life, keep the commandments, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets. Now faith demands that you worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity, neither confusing the Persons one with the other, nor making a distinction in their nature. For the Father is a distinct Person, so also the Son, so also the Holy Spirit; yet all Three possess the one nature, the one Godhead.”


Ama nodded as Alex said “Do you renounce Satan?”


“I do renounce him.”


“And all his works?”


“I do renounce them.”


“And all his attractions?”


“I do renounce them.”


“Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?”


“I do believe.”


“Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born into this world and suffered for us?”


“I do believe.”


“Do you also believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?”


“I do believe.”


Stretching his hand out towards Ama, Alex said “Receive, by this laying on of hands, the good Spirit along with His blessing.  Peace be with you.”


The congregation responded with “and also with you” as Dan and Caroline watched Ama walk down to the altar, her godparents walking behind her.


As they stopped, Alex made the sign of the cross several times while saying “Amamaria, receive the sign of the cross on your brow and on your heart. Put your whole trust in the heavenly teachings. And lead a life that will truly fit you to be a dwelling place for God. On entering God's Church acknowledge with joy that you have escaped the clutches of death.


“Worship God the Father almighty, and Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son, our Lord, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.”




“Let us pray.


“I entreat you, blessed Lord and Father, almighty and everlasting God, to point out the way of truth and godly knowledge to these servants of yours who grope in uncertainty and doubt in the darkness of this world. Open their inner sight, the better to see you as the one God, the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father, in union with the Holy Spirit. May it be their good fortune to enjoy the fruit of this avowal both now and forevermore; through Christ our Lord.”




“I sign you on the brow that you may take up the cross of our Lord.  I sign you on the ears that you may listen to the heavenly teachings.  I sign you on the eyes that you may see the grandeur of God.  I sign you on the nostrils that you may sense the sweet fragrance of Christ.  I sign you on the mouth that you may proclaim the word of life.  I sign you on the breast that you may believe in God.  I sign you on the shoulders that you may take on you the yoke of His service.”


Alex then made the sign of the cross over the whole congregation, saying “I sign all of you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, that you may come to your eternal destiny and have life without end.”




“Let us pray.


“Lord, if it please you, hear our prayer, and by your inexhaustible power protect your chosen one, Amamaria, now marked with the sign of our Savior's holy cross. Let them treasure this first sharing of your sovereign glory, and by keeping your commandments deserve to attain the glory of heaven to which those born anew are destined; through Christ our Lord.”




“Let us pray.


“God, who first made the human race and then fashioned it anew, show your mercy to the people you are to adopt, and by the New Covenant add them as new offspring to your family. Thus, as children of the promise, may they delight in having become by grace what they could not have aspired to by nature; through Christ our Lord.




“What is he doing now,” Doc whispered to Jess.


“He is blessing the salt – part of the ceremony is an exorcism of the evil spirits, and the salt forms a part of that.  Watch.”


“Let us pray.


“Blessed Lord and Father, almighty and everlasting God, who is, who was, who ever shall be, whose beginning is unknown, whose end is inconceivable. We humbly implore you on behalf of this servant of yours whom you have freed from the shackles of error; graciously heed them as they bow low before you at the cleansing font where one is born over again by water and the Holy Spirit. May they put off the old man and put on the new man created in your image; may they receive the pure and spotless robe and thus become worthy of serving you, our God; through Christ our Lord.”




“Amamaria, take this salt in sign of wisdom. May it be for you likewise a token that foreshadows everlasting life.”


As he placed the salt on Ama’s lips, she smiled and said “Amen.”


“Peace be with you.”


“And also with you.”


Looking out, Alex said again “God of our fathers, God, source of all truth, we humbly ask you to be well disposed to your servant, Amamaria. After this first taste of salt, let their hunger for heavenly nourishment not be prolonged but soon be satisfied. For then they will always pay homage to your holy name with fervour, joy, and trust.  In your tender care, O Lord, lead them to the bath of water where one is born over again, so that taken into the family of your faithful they can finally attain the everlasting reward which you have promised; through Christ our Lord.”




Shirley smiled as Alex winked at Ama, and whispered “now for the fun bit...”


“Pray, you who are chosen by God,” he said out loud, “kneel down and say the Our Father.”


Ama knelt on the steps and said the Lord’s Prayer until she said “deliver us from evil.”


“Arise and conclude your prayer with the Amen.”


As Ama stood up, she smiled and said “Amen.”


Looking at Karen, Shirley and Clint, Alex said “as Amamaria’s sponsors, mark her with the sign of the cross while I do likewise.”


All three traced the sign of the cross on her brow with their thumbs as Alex made the sign over them, saying “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”


He then held his hand over them, saying “Let us pray.


“God of heaven and earth, God of the angels and archangels, God of the patriarchs and prophets, God of the apostles and martyrs, God of the confessors and virgins, God of all the devout; God whom every tongue praises and before whom all bend the knee, in heaven, on earth, and in the depths; I call on you, Lord, to watch over this servant of yours in like manner, and to lead them in your kindness to the grace of your baptism; through Christ our Lord.”


As they said “Amen” Alex nodded and said “Now, foul fiend, recall the curse that decided your fate once for all. Indeed, pay homage to the living and true God, pay homage to Jesus Christ, His Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Keep far from this servant of God, for Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, has freely called them to His holy grace and blessed way and to the waters of baptism.”


As he made the sign of the cross again, Ama signed herself before Alex said “Never dare, accursed fiend, to desecrate this seal of the holy cross which we imprint on their brow; through Christ our Lord, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.”




“I cast you out, unclean spirit,” Alex said “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Depart and stay far away from this servant of God. For it is the Lord Himself who commands you, accursed and doomed spirit, He who restored sight to the man born blind and raised Lazarus from the tomb where he had lain four days. So then, foul fiend, recall the curse that decided your fate once for all. Indeed, pay homage to the living and true God, pay homage to Jesus Christ, His Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Keep far from these servants of God, for Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, has freely called them to His holy grace and blessed way and to the waters of baptism.


“Never dare, accursed fiend, to desecrate this seal of the holy cross which we imprint on their brow; through Christ our Lord, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.”




“Let us pray.


“Holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, source of light and truth, I appeal to your sacred and boundless compassion on behalf of this servant of yours. Be pleased to enlighten them by the light of your eternal wisdom. Cleanse, sanctify, and endow them with true knowledge.  For thus will they be made ready for the grace of your baptism and ever remain steadfast, never losing hope, never faltering in duty, never straying from sacred truth, but ready at all times to receive your grace; through Christ our Lord.”




“Will the congregation please stand?”


Taking Ama’s arm, Alex walked her towards the baptistery, before saying, “Come into God's holy sanctuary to receive a heavenly blessing from our Lord Jesus Christ and to be united with Him and His saints.”


“Amen.”  With this, Ama lay prostrate on the floor for a few minutes while the congregation watched.


Eventually, she stood again as Alex held his hands over her, and they said together “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.


“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”


Alex turned and looked out over the congregation, his hands over Ama’s head as he said “Surely it is no secret to you, Satan, that punishment is your lot, torments your portion, that the day of judgment threatens you, that day of never ending torture, the day that shall be like a flaming furnace, in the midst of which everlasting perdition awaits you and your apostate angels. Therefore, accursed one, deservedly doomed, pay homage to the living and true God, pay homage to Jesus Christ, His Son, and to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate. In His name and power I command you, unclean spirit whoever you are, begone and stay far away from this servant of God. For today Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, freely calls them to His holy grace and blessed way and to the waters of baptism, where they will become God's dwelling by the water of rebirth that gives full remission of sin We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.”


“Amen,” the congregation called out, Juliette and Sandy watching with Diana as Alex touched the right and then the left ear of Ama, saying “Ephpheta, which means: Be opened.”  He then touched her nostrils as he said “and perceive the fragrance of God's loving ways. But you, evil spirit, begone, for the judgment of God has come.


“Amamaria Marastella Jameson, do you renounce Satan?”


“I do renounce him.”


“And all his works?”


“I do renounce them.”


“And all his attractions?”


“I do renounce them.”


Dipping his thumb in the holy oil, Alex anointed Ama, saying “I anoint you with the oil that sanctifies in Christ Jesus our Lord, that you may have everlasting life.”




“Peace be with you.”


“And also with you.”


“Go out, unclean spirit, and pay homage to the living and true God. Depart, unclean spirit, and give place to Jesus Christ, His Son. Stay far away, unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.”


As he wiped his thumb, Alex said “it is time to welcome this woman into the body of the church.  Come forward, Amamaria and those who support her.”


As they gathered around the baptismal font, Alex said “Amamaria Marastella Jameson, do you believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?”


“I do believe.”


“Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born into this world and suffered for us?”


“I do believe.”


“And do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?”


“I do believe.”


“Do you wish to be baptized?”


“I do.”


As she said this, Karen opened the top of her dress slightly, while she stepped forward and bent over the font.  Once Karen, Shirley and Clint put their hands on her, Alex began to make the sign of the cross over her head with the water saying “Amamaria Marastella, I baptize you in the name of the Father,” the congregation watching as the water was poured, “and of the Son,” as a second ladle was poured, “and of the Holy Spirit.”


Caroline wiped a tear from her eye as she gripped her grandfather’s arm, while Ama lifted her head and smiled.  Alex dipped his thumb in the water, and made the sign of the cross on her brow as he said “The almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has caused you to be born over again of water and the Holy Spirit and pardoned you all your sins. May he now anoint you with the chrism that sanctifies in Christ Jesus our Lord, and bring you to everlasting life.”




“Peace be with you.”


“And also with you.”


Karen and Shirley then placed a white shawl over Ama’s neck and shoulders, as Alex said “take this white robe and keep it spotless until you arrive at the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may be rewarded with everlasting life.”




Clint then handed Ama a lighted candle, as Alex said “take this burning candle as a reminder to keep your baptismal innocence. Obey God's commandments, so that when our Lord comes for the joyous wedding feast you may go forth to meet Him with all the saints in the halls of heaven, and be happy with Him forevermore.”




“Welcome, Ama,” Alex said as he hugged and kissed the young girl, and then escorted her out as the church applauded her.


“Welcome this young lady into the body of the church, and the Family of God,” Alex said, “we shall sing our next hymn while we prepare the Holy Sacrament.”


Ama went to stand with her mother and grandfather, her godparents returning to their partners as Alex prepared to serve the sacraments.




12.15 pm


“May the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be with you all, now and forever.”




“Peace be with you.”


“And also with you.”


“Go in his peace,” Alex said as he held his arms out, and then walked down the aisle.  As he passed Ama, he whispered “Well done – see you later,” Ama smiling as he and his assistants walked down.


Putting the candle out, Ama smiled as she hugged Caroline and Dan, and then smiled even more as Nick came over and hugged her.


“That was an amazing service,” he said with a smile, “so what now?”


“We go to Sandy’s house for a buffet lunch,” Ama said, “will you ride with us?”


“I’m coming with my parents – we will see you there,” Nick said as he went back to join his own parents, while Juliette came over.


“Well done,” she said as she kissed Ama.  “Now, the rest of the day is all yours.”


“It is a time to be with friends and family,” Ama said with a smile, “I ask no more than that.”


“Agreed – so come on, go and meet your friends,” Caroline said as she took the shawl and candle.  Looking at it, she said “Juliette, this is pure lace – who gave her it.”


“My pleasure,” Karen said, “I felt it was the right thing to get.”


“Indeed – it was,” Caroline said as Ken walked over with John in his arms.  “Oh my – he is only eight months old right?”


“Oh yes,” Ken said, “can’t you tell?”


“Come on,” Caroline said, “let’s go and talk to the others outside before we head to Sandy’s.”


As they walked out of the church, Ama was joined by Doc and Pepsi, who took her by the arms and walked her down to where Nikki and Becca were waiting with Jeannie.


“Right, Ms Jameson,” Doc said, “John will take out picture, and then we go to celebrate!”




1 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“Here she is,” George and Sands said as Ama came in, both of them hugging her before George took her hand and walked her into the main room.


“Hey,” Jo said as she hugged her, “you looked radiant today.”


“Thank you,” Ama said as Abby and Diana came over.


“I cannot stay long – I need to go to a shoot,” Abby said, “but we wanted you to have this on your special day.”


“Thank you,” Ama said as they hugged, and Diana kissed her.


“Come, my dear – we need to go.”


As they left, Jo said “come and get some food – and a drink.  I think you deserve it.”


“It has been a magical day so far.”


“Yes it has,” Maisha said as she came over and hugged Ama.  “I am so proud of you Sister.”


“Thank you Sister – and I am glad you were able to come for this.”


“Before she left, Kylie left something with me – I have placed it with the other gifts.”




“Your family and friends – all of us – have bought you presents for today.  Look for them later – for now, come and meet the others.”


As they walked in, Ama collected some food on a plate, then joined Pepsi and her parents.


“Congratulations,” April said as she kissed Ama.


“Thank you,” Ama said with a smile.


"So why Amamaria Marastella?" Pepsi asked her friend as they ate, "and will it still be just Ama?"

"Yes it will, and I added the Maria to honor Jesus's mother. Marastella comes from combining Mara, my African mother’s name, and Stella, Mom’s mother."

"Oh when you explain it like that,” Grant said, “it makes perfect sense."

"Indeed it does Pepsi." Sandy spoke as she and Heather both hugged the new member of the church.


“Am I going to be hugged or kissed by everyone today?”


“Pretty much so,” Pepsi said as a familiar figure walked over.

"Ama thank you for inviting me, that was a lovely service." Wilhelmina Tennant said as they shook hands.

"And thank you for coming Miss Tennant, it meant a lot to me that the important people in my life were here."

"It was lovely," Becca said as she kissed her friend, "and very moving even for a Jew like me."

"She was crying in places." Jeannie reached up to hug Ama.

"Oh like you weren't Jeannie Brewster."


“Hey, I’m not going to deny it.  It was a truly moving experience.”


“Excuse me a moment,” Ama said as she made her way over to greet Nick as he and his parents arrived.


"She looks radiant Caroline." John Hammond spoke as he snapped candid shots of Ama and her friends.

"Indeed she does.”  Caroline sipped her drink as she said “I am so proud of her John, this is all something she did of her own free will, and on her own initiative."

"I can tell the importance of it to her."

"Yes...oh and by the way have you met my Grandfather?"

"No I haven't."

"Dan Jameson, meet Sir John Hammond," Caroline spoke as the two men shook hands.

"Good to meet you Sir John."

"Please just call me John, the sir bit is all a bit new."

"I was going to ask you for copies of your photos to show everyone back home."

"it will be my pleasure to do you a set Dan."


“Thanks – I’m amazed at how many people have come to support her.”


“Well, she is a much loved young lady,” John said as Karen came over.


“Hey – you were a wonderful support today.”


"Well, I was honoured – but why did she ask for me to be her Godmother Caroline?"

"Because you were Mum’s best friend Aunt Karen, with most of her African roots destroyed, her western family and its heritage probably means more to her then any of us."

"Well I'm happy for her, and I'm pretty sure somewhere Stella is very proud of her...and you."

"Thank you," Caroline's voice trembled slightly.

"So she and young Nick there, is it serious?"

"Oh yes and no. They are both young, and neither is quite as adventurous as their friends. They have a common passion for soccer, old films, and cheeseburgers."

"Ama eats cheeseburgers?"

"I know sickening isn't it, we have to watch our weight compulsively, and my daughter can eat anything she likes without gaining an ounce."


“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jo said as she walked past, eating a slice of pizza.


“Okay, she is officially on my hit list,” Karen said with a laugh.




"Look at the little princess?" Katy smiled at Judith sitting in her high chair, watching everything and bestowing her best smile on people who talked to her.


“There you go,” Klaus said as he put some food on a plate in front of her.


“Fank ew Grappy,” she said, smiling as she picked up and looked at a sandwich.


"I know, she's thoroughly enjoying herself." Sands said as she ate a sandwich slowly.   Both girls were wearing knee length blue dresses and heels.

"You don't sound great bestie?"

"I'm not, I made the mistake of wearing tight, brand new high heels, my darn feet hurt like hell, and all this standing about is doing me no good at all."

"Always, always break new shoes in before you wear them for something like this Sands." Katherine joined her granddaughter and her friend.

"I know - now. Heather warned me I was doing something silly, but I guess I've learned my lesson."

"Your Heather is a young woman wise beyond her years." Katherine smiled.  “Sit down, both of you.”

"So other then aching feet, what else is on your mind Sands?" Katy ate her own food. "Did you get an e-mail perchance from a certain German boy?"

"Yes," Sandy blushed deep red.

"Katy stop teasing," her grandmother spoke again.

"Well I think they make a cute couple."


“I was surprised, but it is kinda nice having a boy write to me,” Sands said, “he said he was looking forward to seeing me in April already.”


“Ah good you’re both here,” Juliette said as she came over, “can you both some round to the office tomorrow after school?”


“I think so Aunt Juliette – why?”


“Alice is coming down to do fittings for bridesmaid dresses – good enough reason?”



“There you are Alex,” Nessa said as her brother came in, “we were beginning to worry.”


“Sorry – a small matter I needed to deal with,” Alex said as she took his coat off.  “Where is the lady of the hour?”


“In here,” Nessa said as they walked into the drawing room, where Ama was talking to Grace Gresham.


“Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls,” Caroline said, “would you make sure you have something in your glasses please?”


“Mom – what are you planning,” Ama said as she looked over.


“Just to ask you all,” Caroline said, “to raise you glasses to a wonderful young lady, of whom I am very, very proud today.  Please, join me in saying well down – to Ama.”


“To Ama,” everyone said as the young woman blushed.


“And we also have this cake,” April said as it was wheeled in, “a present from Jimmy at the bakery.”


“It is a wonderful present,” Ama said as she took the knife and made the first cut, before Nessa and Sandy started to hand slices out.





"You look as though you are enjoying yourself Shirley?" Clint asked as he brought her a piece of cake.

"How could I fail to?"

"Yes,” Clint said as Doc walked over, “it's been a lovely day."

"She's such a sweet child, and Caroline and Dan are obviously so proud of her."

"Very much so," Clint tried his cake, "Oh this is so good."

"Oh yes indeed." Shirley sampled it as well. "Give Sandy her due, the food here is always first class."

"Yes.  Susan and the family seem to be enjoying it as well."


“So when do they head back to Hong Kong?”


“Catherine allowed them to stay a extra day, so they are having lunch with Rose and Maeve.  They fly back tonight.”

"Admiring this cake?" Mary Thomas joined the group plate in hand.

"Most definitely Mary, and how are you?" Shirley kissed the Welshwoman.

"Already knowing how much I'm going to miss Erica and Denice when they move out. I love having them at home."

"Not thirsting after getting your own place back?" Clint asked.

"No, well in a little way, but it’s been great having the company."


“I can understand,” Shirley said as she looked at Maisha, “it does bring something to the home having a teenager around.”


“Well, you’ll have to visit them.”


“Ai – once I get back from Wales.  I’m heading over to see Fiona and the family.”


“How is she?”


“Well, she has finished the treatment – now, it’s the worst part.”




Mary nodded as she looked round.







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