8 pm Central Time
As Dominique was checking her equipment, her cell phone went off. Looking at the caller ID, she smiled as she said “John – what do you have for me?”
“I have the address for Metz – and I called Carina. She said to tell you she’s sent you a little present by e-mail, and to wish you good luck.”
“John, you are a miracle worker,” Dominique said as she opened her laptop, “anything else?”
“Just that Chet really does not like him – and neither do any of his friends.”
As Dom made a mental note of the address, she looked at the message from Carina. “Very useful – thanks John, I owe you a drink when I next see you.”
“I’ll take you up on that – good luck Dom.”
Ending the call, Dominique downloaded the file onto a stick. “Right – long time since I visited this place, so let’s see if anything’s changed…”
"Hey,” Grace said as she dropped her bag in the chair, “sorry I'm so late, but I went and saw Pippa Ashley."
"I guessed you had Grace, so we held supper for you." Harriet called from the kitchen. “I’ll serve up in a few minutes.”
"So how was she?" Sarah asked, looking up from the papers she was grading.
"Still rough and shaky, but better than I thought she might have been.” Grace sat down and pulled her shoes off, saying “we had a frank and honest discussion."
"You know what it means when politicians say that don't you Grace? It means they had a blazing row, and that one side stormed out." Harriet wiped her hands as she came out from the kitchen.
“What was the Yes Minister quote? Frank discussion meant there was a fight, full and frank meant they were cleaning the blood stains from the carpet?”
"I know," Grace smiled, "but in our case it’s a true description. I never realized what she had built up inside her over all those years."
"Oh?” Sarah put her paper down and said “want to explain?"
"Pippa's mother was very ambitious for her children, till tonight though I didn't know that she had used me as something to whip Pippa with..."
"Whip?" Sarah asked.
"The old bitch used my success to point out to Pippa her inadequacies – well, only as Lady Ashley saw them."
"Now that's not only unfair, but downright hurtful." Harriet shook her head.
"I think her mother’s throwing me in Pippa's face constantly is why Pippa grew to hate me. But I never realized how much that had hurt her until tonight…"
"Well as much as I loathe to say this, I do totally understand that."
"And so do I now Sarah." Grace shook her famous head of blonde hair. "It also explains the events of 15 years ago, and why I left my job in Devizes and moved to Harlow."
"Would you care to elaborate on that Grace?" Harriet asked.
"One day maybe, if Pippa gives me permission." Grace breathed deeply. "You know at the Greenwich show I said I'd cut myself off entirely from my previous life?"
"Yes, I remember that."
"Well it was only 99% true,” Grace said as she leaned back. “For a few weeks mine and Pippa's path crossed back then, and something happened. But Pippa and I need to talk about that first."
La Salle Private Residences
1212 La Salle Drive, Chicago
“Care for a drink, Randolph?”
Randolph Metz looked over to where his wife Marjorie was sitting, wearing a silk dressing gown over a pair of cream pyjamas. Randolph was wearing an ornate smoking jacket over his shirt and trousers, a lit cigar in his hand.
“Why not? Would you care for some wine, or something stronger?”
“How about a bottle of the ’92 Rioja,” Marjorie said, “if we have one left?”
“We have several – I’ll go and fetch one,” Randolph said as he stood up, heading for the kitchen as Marjorie looked at her magazine. As he looked for a corkscrew, he didn’t hear the door to the apartment open and close, or the soft footfall on the carpet.
Marjorie did not hear it either – not until the leather gloved hand was clamped over her hand, and she felt the pistol against her head as the female voice whispered “Stay quiet, Mrs. Metz – I would hate to spoil your evening.”
“Shall I pour, my dear,” Randolph said as he came in, the bottle of wine in one hand and two glasses in the other – only to stop as he saw the woman standing behind his wife. She was dressed in black – including the balaclava over her head, allowing only her eyes and mouth to be shown – and held a .38 against Marjorie’s left temple.
“Good evening Mister Metz,” she said in a deep, west coast accent, “you may wish to very slowly put that extremely good bottle of wine and the glasses down, and then take a seat, hands on your head. I have no wish to hurt either of you, but I will do so if need be.”
“How did you get in? The security cameras…”
“Have all been neutralized – and please, do not try to sound the alarm, or I will kill you both. Remain calm, do as I say, and you both get through this.”
“You have some skill, to circumvent the alarms. What are you going to do?”
“Actually,” she said as she reached into the pouch at her side, and took out a roll of duct tape, “you’re going to do it. Take this, and tape your wife’s ankles and legs together.”
“Plsssddshhss,” Marjorie mumbled, the masked woman watching as Randolph knelt down and taped his wife’s ankles together, then her legs above and below her knees, and finally her thighs, moving her dressing gown open to do the last part.
“When I take my hand away,” the masked woman said, “do not speak, merely open your mouth.” Removing her gloved hand, she waited as Marjorie slowly opened her mouth, and then pushed a red rubber ball in.
“Tape her mouth over,” she said as she looked at Randolph, his wife’s eyes wide as he covered her mouth and jaw with the tape.
“Good – now hand me the roll, and stand perfectly still,” she said as Randolph handed the silver roll over, watching as the gun remained in view of him and the intruder, while she pulled Marjorie’s wrists behind her and taped them together, followed by tape around her arms and body above and below her chest.
“Now, Mister Metz,” she said as she picked the gun up, “where is your safe?”
“It’s in my office – through there,” Randolph said, as he found himself unable to take his eyes off Marjorie. The masked woman came round and turned the television on, then pushed Marjorie over so that her head lay on the arm of the couch she was sat on, her legs on the seat.
“Do not move – if I hear you move, I will kill him,” she said, Marjorie nodding and whimpering as she took Randolph by the arm and walked him through to the office.
“Where is the safe?”
“Behind that picture,” Randolph said as he looked at a portrait of him and his wife with tall, thin boy with a strange look in his eyes. The intruder pulled a heavy wooden chair with armrests out, and made Randolph sit in it, taping his wrists and arms to the arms of the chair and his body to the chair back.
As she taped his ankles and legs together, he looked at her and said “You are a professional – what’s this about?”
“Robbing you – what do you think it is about?”
“That I get – but you came when we were still up, which shows admirable skill, courage – and purpose. So what else is going on?”
“While I open your safe,” the intruder said as she turned the computer screen to face Randolph, and turned the main unit on, “I have a little something for you to watch. Please do in silence – no need to upset your wife more than she already is.”
“What is it, a porno movie.”
“In a way,” she said as she pushed a USB stick into the unit, Randolph watching as she went to the safe, and looked at the mechanism.
“The fucking little bastard…”
“My purpose is not just rob you, Mister Metz,” she whispered quietly, “I desire words with your son on this matter. Where is he?”
“You went to all this bother just to find him?”
“You went to a great deal of bother to hide him – but he is causing this girl harm and hurt again, and I want that to stop.”
“No – but we believe he is running an escort agency and wishes to implicate this innocent young girl. This must be stopped – so if you tell me where he is, I visit him, and you and your wife were robbed. I would hate to have to take other measures.”
“Oh I’ll tell you where he is,” Randolph said, “if you make him pay.”
“Guaranteed – now, the combination?”
Marjorie looked up as the masked woman pulled Randolph in, the silver tape covering his mouth and the red ball stuck in it as he struggled in the chair.
“Do not move,” she said as she left him close to his wife, “enjoy your evening.”
She slipped out of the apartment, removing the mask and smiling as she walked back to the lifts, and returned to the underground car park…
11.30 pm Central Time
Morgan Park, South Chicago
Wayne Metz sat at his terminal, looking at the e-mails and transaction details as they appeared. When his dad had cut him off after the incident at Northlands, that had been the final straw – but he had felt this was coming ever since the bitch had pulled that bait and switch on him in June.
So he had laid plans – the copies he had kept of the web pages helping him to set up the new site. Getting ahold of the domain name had been simplicity itself – amazing what you can do with a little money to the right people – and he had everything ready.
What Northlands had taught him was the need to act completely behind the scenes – so as the new Madame Angel, he had recruited and screened his ladies as a woman working at distance, using voice modulator software to sound like a deep voiced woman when he needed to talk to them.
And so far, it was working well – and keeping that little whore’s face on there meant that, if they ever got busted, they’d go to Miss Anna Carlton instead of him. One or way or another, he’d come out on top, and Madame Angel would pay for what she and her ‘friends’ had done – even that little trollop Sarah.
Standing up and stretching, he made his way out of the room and into the small kitchen. Daddy’s money had set him up nicely here – bought the equipment, paid for the routing and the diversion needed – and he had more than recouped his costs now.
“I need to do some shopping,” he said as he looked at the empty room in his icebox, before taking a bottle of Bud and opening it. As he walked into the room, he took a swig from the bottle – then stopped as he looked at the woman sitting in his chair. She was tall – incredibly tall – with long black hair, and wore black clothing as well as short boots and gloves – but the pistol she was pointing at him was very real.
“Hello, Wayne,” she said quietly, “you have proved a very difficult man to find, but finally, we get a chance to meet.”
“Who are you,” Wayne said as he looked at her, slowly walking to the side, “and how did you get in here?”
“I would not look for the silent alarm Wayne – for one thing, I found it and neutralized it. The same for your video recording cameras – all turned off, so that you and I could have a little chat, nice and private.”
“I don’t believe you – now answer my question,” Wayne said, “who are you?”
“Oh where are my manners – I am known as Dominique, and as far as you are concerned, Wayne, I am the sole reason you are not currently with the Chicago PD awaiting deportation to the great state of Texas.”
“What the hell are you talking about – deportation to Texas?”
“Yes – they like to keep things nice and formal down there when it comes to murder suspects. They have the death penalty after all – so they tend to watch out for little things like…”
“MURDER? Lady who the hell are you?”
“I,” Dominique said as she stood up, “am the head of security for the woman who protects Madame Angel. So,” she said as she grabbed Wayne’s arm, “shut the fuck up and sit down.”
Wayne was pushed into the seat, looking at her as he said “Fuck – she knows, doesn’t she?”
“Oh she knows,” Dominique said as she stood over Wayne, “and my employer is very keen to ensure that Madame Angel remains as hidden as she is now. But you’ve made her name known again – it is you isn’t it?”
“It’s me who what…”
“I’m taking the liberty of downloading your database,” Dominique said, “and I have copies of all your transactions. All your – escorts will be contacted, and compensated for the fact the agency has been closed down.”
“You can’t do that,” Wayne shouted as he tried to stand up, only to be pushed down by Dom.
“Yes I can little man,” she whispered as she grabbed him between his legs, “and f that was all you had done, tried to ruin her, I would let you live. But after San Antonio…”
“I’ve never been to fucking San Antonio,” Wayne screamed.
“No – but someone shot and killed one of Madame Angel’s former ladies at the airport yesterday. So, as I say, I am the only thing standing between you and a deportation charge to fetch the needle in Texas.”
Wayne visibly paled as he stammered “Nnnnooo – no way, I never paid anyone to murder anyone. I wanted to bring that bitch Carlton down, yes – but I never killed anyone.”
“I didn’t say you did – I said you paid someone to…”
“Look, I’ll take a lie detector test, I’ll confess to the new Angelic Escorts, turn over my records – but I didn’t tell anyone to kill any whores!”
Dominique looked hard at the scared young man, and said “you know what – I believe you. So here’s what’s going to happen – all your ill gotten gains are going to a charity that supports women who had no choice in being made to work and sell themselves. Your records will be destroyed, and as I say your escorts compensated.”
“Still means you have no proof I was behind it.”
“Really,” Dominique said as she stood up. “Take a look at your screen.”
Wayne turned round to see his monitors slowly start to change from his files to a picture of a fluffy bunny.
“As I say we have your records, Wayne,” Dominique said as she removed the USB stick and pocketed it, “and we’ll clean this mess up. Go after Madame Angel again, and this will be as nothing – I’ll show you why I am the head of security for Madame X.”
“What about this Texas thing?”
“Not my problem – but you have a more immediate one. Control?”
“We recorded everything Dominique,” a disembodied voice said.
“Oh – and before I forget, that video tape? We shared it with someone tonight. If I was you, Wayne, I’d start running – because your father wants a word with you.”
“Pops? Oh fuck…”
“So disappear, rat – and pray you never see me again,” Dom said before she pistol whipped Wayne, watching as he slumped in the chair before she walked out of the office.
Taking out her cell phone, she dialed a number…
The Richmond Mansion
“Heather, it’s Dom – the immediate threat has been neutralized.”
“And he won’t come back?”
“I made it very clear what would happen if he did. The fund will have a substantial donation to it soon, but we need to compensate the other girls.”
“I’ll take care of it – so he was the one behind the new Angelic Escorts, but the other matter?”
“No – accept my word, he knew nothing of it.”
“Ties in with something Jan said. When will you be back?”
“Tomorrow lunchtime – I have a breakfast appointment.”
“Good – come here, we can talk when you arrive.”
Putting her cell phone down, Heather breathed a sigh of relief and put her head on Sandy’s chest.
“So Doc is safe?”
“As far as Chicago goes, yes – but we’ll talk tomorrow.”
Tuesday 15th September
St Angela’s – The Refectory
“All right then,” Pepsi said as she sat at the table, “we have the place, we have the time, we have the theme, and… We have the invitations!”
She handed out the envelopes around the table, Becca and Nikki opening theirs and saying “Well, we know you’re in. Who else is coming?”
“I’ve got the ones for Jeannie and Abs, but they scarpered – I think they have a show today, so I’ll get them to them later. A lot of my friends from the village are coming as well – Mom’s taking care of those today.”
“Any of the Tween brigade,” Doc asked.
“One or two – I’m still thinking on them.”
APCO Fashion Week Show, Waldorf Astoria
The ladies were sitting backstage, looking through the outfits and talking with each other as they did so.
“Well, if it gets me away from school for the afternoon, I’m happy,” Jeannie said as she came in with Abby and Grace. “Hey Maureen, Jordan.”
“I am never going to get used to you calling me that,” Maggie said as she and Marnie sat down.
“How’s college, girls?”
“Getting used to that,” Marnie said with a smile. “So what’s the plan for today?”
“We’re about to find out,” Carina said as she sat with Judith, watching as Alice McKinnon came out.
“Listen up ladies. First up, thanks for coming. Next up, we’re going to shake things up.”
“Oy vey,” Little Holly said, “this is going to be fun.”
“Look,” Alice said as she looked round wearing a grey coat dress and heels, “I know I’m breaking the custom of recent shows, but honestly 25 minutes, each girl walks just one outfit, those kind of shows are starting to get horrid.”
“Alice has been watching videos of old time shows again darling.” Mandy drawled in Karen’s ear.
“So just for me, you will all be doing at least two outfits, many of you three, There will be a short intermission, and if it’s not PERFECT,” Alice said as she looked round, “kiss all of your discounts at my stores bye bye.”
“Ouch!” Talya Somoroneva, gulped, “that could cost me a fortune.”
“Well then no one fuck it up…”
“Can I remind you that the same rules apply to you Bats.” Karen laughed.
“I’ve told her that,” Duncan smiled at his wife. “She messes up she pays full price.”
Mandy and Angel were looking through the racks of clothes. “I adore these clothes darling…”
“And I have to agree with Mandy, to think this all started with the doodles you were making at the Dior Retrospective.” Juliette smiled.
“Is this one of Kylie’s?” Abigail said as she held one of the dresses on her rack up.
“It is,” Alice smiled, “that girl will one day be a top designer.”
“Bats can I protest.” Cecelia Chancellor moaned in her posh English voice.
“Well, best to get it out of the way early, CeeCee,” Grace said with a laugh.
“I have nothing against darling Judith, but I draw the line at her modeling with me, I feel old enough having walked with her mother and her grandmother in shows… But to work with the granddaughter of someone I worked with as a mere child?”
“Well quit like you said dearest CeeCee,” Karen and several of the models in her group started to laugh hard as they looked at the veteran model.
“Alright, alright, now I remember saying it,” CeeCee shook her head, “Let me change it to Great Granddaughter of anyone I’ve worked with…And Carmen you DARE ring one of your great grand kids to come here…”
“Who me darling?” Carmen smiled innocently.
“No Jane Bats?” Juliette asked.
“No,” Alice said, “I asked, but Gisele is still sticking to her decision she made in April to call it quits after 20 years in the biz.”
“Well with a quarterback like Tom as her husband, it’s not like she needs the money,” Missy said as she entered the backstage area.
“True,” Juliette replied as she kissed her agent.
“Alright ladies,” Bats yelled out, “we are now on the clock, places please, hair done, makeup done, then you all get to rest.”
“I hate to say it,” Jeannie grinned, “but I think I just found the one thing worse than a Mary Thomas show…”
“I heard that, Jeannie Brewster,” Alice said with a smile.
“I wish Jo were here…”
“Well then, you’d better thank Coach on your behalf.”
“JO!” Abby and Carina hugged their friend as she came in.
“You made it,” Mandy said as she kissed Jo on the cheek.
“Yeah – it took the combined efforts of Ju, Missy and Alice, but I got the night off. But I have to be back for eight tomorrow – so someone arranged a helicopter for me.”
“Minor expense,” Missy said, “and the cost?”
“Sponsorship for the team this year,” Jo said with a grin. “So what are we doing?”
“So what’s been worthwhile so far?” Jo asked Abby as they sat together a short while later, having their hair done.
“Well more shows then ever, but with Grace as dean the school has been a lot more understanding.”
“Well I bet she’s walked a good few shows herself?”
“She has, as for the clothes, it’s been the usual mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly…Ooohh and I need to tell you. Letty got to make her debut as a model.”
“Letty?” Jo turned her head slightly. “As in Letty Kinman?”
“Well with best regards to a girl I love as a dear friend, poor Letty hasn’t got a great face.”
“Maybe not, but she’s only an inch shorter then I am. Angie was supposed to be doing a double with me at the Factory Door show.”
“She had a wreck and broke her leg driving cross town. So Erica is having a fit when he spots Lets who had only come to give me a ride. Anyway with her wearing a slightly higher heels then me, and me whispering all she had to do, it rather went well.”
“Done by a professional, she looked really pretty good.”
“Oh knowing Letty she hated it…”
“Pretty much, but she said it gave her insights for her essay she’s writing on the effects of adrenalin on the human body.”
“Well good for her, how about the others?”
“Well - Carina and Ingy, probably know the routes to and from school blindfold, they have worked hard fitting classes and shows. Mags and Marnie have both done fewer shows, but some high impact ones, even Holly has walked a couple of shows.”
“Sounds good – and Jeannie?”
“Lapping it up as she always does,” Abby said with a smile.
“I heard there had been a couple of incidents locally as well.”
“Could be – but on the good news front, that issue we had with our mutual friend has been resolved in part.”
“Tell me later,” Jo said with a smile.
The Richmond Mansion
“You wanted to see me,” Doc said as she came into the kitchen, where Heather and Sandy were sitting.
“Yeah – I spoke to Dom last night, and again this morning, and she has news for you.”
“Was it him?”
Heather nodded as Sandy said, “Angelic Escorts has ceased trading again, and we got Master Metz not only to compensate his ladies, but to donate all other gains to the Mazengwe fund.”
“And the bastard himself?”
“Dom paid a visit to his parents first – robbed them, and showed his father a certain piece of film. He knows if he crosses you in this way again, Dom will finish the job. In the meantime, he’s so scared of his father, he’ll keep quiet.”
“I still want him dead,” Doc said, “but did he order Kerry’s death?”
“Dom doesn’t think so, and I agree. Jan says there is another possibility.”
“Ed Mitchell has disappeared – Heather is trying to track him, and Jan is doing what she can. The website is gone, but for the moment, stay vigilant.”
“Ed? He wouldn’t – would he?”
“We don’t know,” Sandy said, “so be careful.”
“I can never seem to eat that much at these things,” Carina said as she looked at her food, “how on earth do you manage it Jo?”
“Hey, I have a meet this weekend – I need the energy,” Jo said as she cut into her chicken and ate a piece.
“So diaries out,” Kate ordered as the models picked at their dinners, then reached for their bags. “So who is where, other then London, Paris and Milan before Christmas?”
“Well those of us who are college girls return mainly to our studies.” Ingrid got her book out.
“Same with those of us still at school.” Jeannie pulled her diary out.
“And those of us who teach.” Grace smiled as she glanced round the private dining room, she’d missed this sort of thing where the girls collapsed, unwound, gossiped, and some of them even ate some food.
“I’m doing a couple of small fashion weekends, places like Philadelphia and Atlanta, going to check out the local talent.” Juliette sipped some champagne.
“Is that as Pelican looking at models, or Juliette looking at Designs?” Kate Upton asked.
“A bit of both,” Juliette said with a smile, “with taking ownership of Norstar, I thought I’d go look at prospects.”
“Sounds an idea darling,” Mandy drawled.
“Well Stick and I have a deb season to prepare for.” Angel looked at the list of events she was committed to. “What I hadn’t realized is all the other things that go along with the balls.”
“Tell me about it – and I need to make a decision about school next year,” Abby said. “I’m torn about five different ways at the moment.”
“Your mother pushing the Sorbonne?”
“Nothing wrong with the place,” Juliette said with a smile.
“True – but there are attractions in other places…”
“Like Cornell,” Jo said, ducking the bread roll as Abby threw it.
“Going back to what you were saying, Ju – when the deal goes through, then can you now give Missy orders?” asked Agyness Deyn.
“Not if I want to keep living.” Juliette laughed. “We’re very much the silent partners – Missy will be the front of house manager.”
“So Pru what is it we all here about pending nuptials?” asked Sasha Pirovarova.
“Well, ladies, the rumours are true,” Pru Stratton said as she showed them her hand, with the single diamond surrounded by gold, “Jerry popped the question two weeks ago, and we’re trying to set the date for next year.”
“Congratulations,” Grace said as she looked at the ring. “Sounds like a match made in heaven.”
“Well, you will all get invitations,” Pru said with a smile as Alice came in.
“Right – places ladies. We have a show to do! Final make up and hair, and then we get started!”
“Hey,” Pepsi said as Ama came into the main room of her apartment, “what brings you here?”
“To deliver my acceptance to your party,” Ama said, “I trust all of us are coming?”
“Yeah – so far so good,” Pepsi said with a grin. “Alex?”
“Is also coming – he has started to look for a suitable costume. I still have the costume from the Curragh weekend.”
“Well, at least your boyfriend is coming – blooming exams,” Pepsi said with a huff. “Hey – while you’re here, want a drink? I want to ask you a question.”
“Of course,” Ama said as she followed Pepsi into the kitchen. “You know Jan Carter is my other mom,” Pepsi said as she handed Ama a bottle, “well, her daughter Katy knows now. The problem I’ve got is that I want to invite her to my party.”
“Well, that sounds good,” Ama said as she took a drink, “but what is the problem?”
“Her posse – they’re growing up, but at different rates. She and two others are discovering boys, but the other three are wondering what’s going on.”
“So the issue becomes, do you invite Katy alone, Katy and the two friends, or all six, correct?”
“In a nutshell,” Pepsi said. “What do you think?”
“You are, perhaps, asking the wrong person Pepsi – I did not grow up as you and the others did.”
“I know – but I’d still like to know what you think.”
As they walked back into the main area and sat down, Ama said “do you remember when we first met, at the party?”
“At that party at the Waldorf – yeah, I remember.”
“I knew nobody there, except for Mom and Maisha, but you welcomed me and Maisha, brought us both into your circle and made us welcome. So, logically, can we not do the same for all of Katy’s friends, and make them feel just as welcome?”
Pepsi nodded. “I guess so – girls gotta grow up some time, and I want Katy there. All right – we’ll send invites to all six. Thanks Ama.”
“You are most welcome. Now, about the game on Thursday night…”