“Drinking beer, eating hotdogs, watching a softball game. It’s pretty All-American stuff.” Susan smiled as she held April on her lap.
“Well caught Behati.” Clint called out as the Namibian model comfortably caught a high fly ball just short of the fence.
“Everyone’s having fun and its all for charity.” Marina sat down besides them.
“And despite their own predictions that they would be uncompetitive the girls are doing well.” Clint spoke again.
“Well it helps having a star guest like Miranda pitching.”
“I take it she’s not a model?” Marina asked, “Hers was the only name I didn’t know.”
“She’s an old school friend of Carina’s, she is a cadet at West Point, and a top sports player.”
“Oh that explains it.” Marina joined in the applause as Miranda induced the batter to tamely ground out to first base for the final out of the inning.
“So we’re into the fifth innings now, the All Stars in a comfortable lead with one out…”
“Okay Jo, you go bat for Behati.” Mary made a change.
“Gotcha Coach,” Jo picked up a bat and strode out.
“And batting now for the All-Stars the face of Fitzstuart Woolens, and soon to be seen in the new Big Box Campaign … Joanne Smith!”
Jo smiled and blushed a little as the crowd cheered, adjusting her glasses.
“Strike One!” she let the first pitch go by.
Jo watched the tall nurse on the mound wind up, and tossed the next pitch…she swung, and missed over the ball as it sunk late.
“Strike Two!” Alex called.
“Alright this time,” Jo told herself. She watched the release and swung, hitting the ball in the gap between short and third. Quickly the nurse playing third got to the ball and threw it to first.
“Safe” Jo heard Erin call as she just beat the ball into the First Baseman’s glove.
“You’re quick!” the nurse shook her hand, as Jo dusted herself down.
“I am….now watch me try steal second.” Jo laughed.
“Is everything all right, my dear,” Willy said as he looked at Natasha.
“Yes – the baby just gave a very strong kick, that’s all.”
“Can I get you a drink,” he said as he held his wife’s stomach.
“Some water, please,” Natasha said with a nod.
As Willy walked off, Natasha put her head down for a moment, hoping nobody would notice as she grimaced slightly…
“All right you,” George said as he walked over to the barbecue, “Jo’s on the field – get in there and watch her.”
“Thank you,” Curt said as he headed off, George shaking his head as he turned some more of the sausages over.
“You really seem to have settled here George,” Shirley said as she walked over.
“Well, the air agrees with me, and Caroline keeps me busy – hot dog?”
“Not for the moment, no – I have a little job I would like you to undertake for me at some point, if you are willing.”
“It would be an honour – anything special?”
“I’ll tell you later…”
“And Joanne Smith makes it home safe, to increase their lead to 9-6.”
“Way to go girl,” Carina said as she high-fived Jo, the two of them sitting down in the dugout.
“And…. That’s the final out. We’re going to take an interval at this stage, and we re-start in fifteen minutes.”
“All right girls – back into the changing room for team talk,” Mary said as she shepherded them inside. As Jack walked over, he glanced to the side and then looked again.
“Do these aged eyes deceive me, or is this the vision of Glorious Grace Gresham in front of me,” he said as he walked over.
“You haven’t changed a bit Jack,” Grace said as she hugged him. “Well, your taste in clothes perhaps…”
“Whereas you, my dear, are as much a flatterer as ever. Over here for long?”
“A few weeks – Missy just got me signed up for a shoot next week.”
“That’s the one – why?”
“I’ll see you then,” Jack said with a grin as he ran into the changing rooms, waving his pompoms.
“Welcome back, Palomino,” Linda said with a laugh.
“There are times when I wish I could lose myself in William Smith now,” Jo said as she took a drink from a sports bottle.
“Only a few more weeks – and then trust me, you’ll want to be back home at times,” Miranda said.
“Even with Curt there,” Cari said with a smile.
“We’re in the lead, girls – now we get to have some fun,” Mary said as she clapped her hands. “We’re going to make a few more changes for the second half. First, though, a certain Miss Beckham wishes to talk to some of you…”
As Shirley made her way back from the woman’s restroom, she noticed a group of three teenagers, two male, one female, hanging around in the reception hall. They were dressed in leather jackets and jeans, but as Shirley approached them they started to talk to each other in low whispers, the girl looking to the door to the box office as they did so.
At first, she didn’t think much of it, but as she got closer one of the two young men walked towards a drink dispenser, accidentally brushing against her as he did so. She heard him mumble “Sorry,” and said nothing, walking instead to the bleachers where Janice was sitting behind Katy and her grandmother.
“Janice I think we might have a situation.” Shirley sat down next to the FBI agent, “there are three kids staking out the box office.”
“What do you mean staking out?” Janice looked at her friend, and then said quietly “OH!”
“I brushed up against one, he’s carrying.”
“Are you sure Shirley?”
“Jan I have been in the business long enough to know when I see a holdup about to go down.”
“Are you packing Jan?”
“Are you Shirley? Who brings a piece to a Fourth of July event like this?”
“No I left mine at home as well. Would any of us…”
Janice turned and looked at Shirley. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Doc.” Each smiled as they spoke simultaneously.
“And Heather probably has something in her car.” Janice added.
“I’ll go find Anna…you go see Heather…Okay?”
“And we had better hurry Jan.”
Jan nodded as she looked along the bleachers, and then headed west, while Shirley turned and went back into the car park.
“Hey Janice,” Doc said as she looked up from where she was sitting with Ama and Kylie, “what’s up?”
“Listen, can you come and give me a hand with some cold drinks?”
“Yeah – if you two will excuse me,” Doc said as she picked up her purse and followed Janice to the car park. As they walked out, they saw Shirley and Heather coming in the opposite direction.
“Have you told her yet,” Shirley said as they came closer.
“Told me what?”
“There’s a robbery going on right now in the box office – we need to stop it, without letting anyone else know or anyone else getting hurt. Do you have anything?”
Doc patted her purse as she said “a .22 – never leave home without it.”
“You scare me girl,” Janice said, and then she looked at Heather.
“Do they look like pros?”
“Heather, they looked like they were no older than Abby.”
“All right – go, enjoy the game,” Heather said. “Anna – with me, let’s move.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer called out, “I’d like to remind you that after the game we will be having a meet and sign session with our distinguished guests from the world of fashion. In return for donations to the appeal, they will be available for photographs and autographs.
“I would further like to remind you that each player on the all-stars will be signing her jersey, and that they will be being put up for auction online starting this afternoon.
“With that in mind, we’re ready to start the fifth innings, so please welcome the teams back onto the field!”
“They’re going back on,” the leather jacketed girl said as she looked out of the box office door. She had pulled a scarf up over the lower part of her face, and looked back to where her two male friends were securing the legs of the three elderly women who manned the office with plastic zip ties. Their wrists were secured behind their backs with another plastic strip, their hands palm to palm, and as they were rolled over strips of duct tape were pressed down over their mouths.
“Don’t move a fucking inch,” one of the boys said as he waved a starting pistol at them, “fill the bag up.”
The second boy nodded, a baseball cap pulled down over his head and dark glasses covering his eyes, as he grabbed a canvas bag and started to put the takings into it.
“Come on, come on,” the girl said as she glanced around the office, the only other sound the whimpering of the three captives.
“All right, we got it all,” the boy said as they heard a cheer from the field, “let’s get out of here.”
“Don’t move an inch, any of you,” the first boy said as he walked backwards out of the room, into the outer area where tickets were sold and collected. The blinds were down; meaning the only way anyone could look in was through the door to the lobby, which they had closed when they came in.
The girl closed the inner door, and shouted “We did it – there must be thousands here.”
“Tens of thousands,” the boy said as he waved the starting pistol round, so let’s get the…”
As they turned round, however, they saw a woman in her late twenties standing there, her brown hair cut short and framing her face, her eyes covered by a large pair of sunglasses, and her hands in a pair of soft black leather gloves. She was wearing a white sweater and jeans, and was smiling as she said “Now, here’s what going to happen. You two pricks are going to very quietly drop the gun and the bag, and all three of you are going to drop to your knees, and put your hands on your heads.”
“And what the fuck makes you think we’re going to do that?”
“I’m so glad you asked,” the brown haired woman said as she produced a .45 from behind her back, and pointed it at them, “here’s one reason – my friend has another.”
“That pressure you feel against your back,” the girl heard another female voice say, “is the business end of a Ruger 2245 LR. If I fire, there will be little sound, but I assure you your back will be shattered, and if you survive the exit wound you will be crippled for life. So, when my friend asks you to do something, I strongly suggest for the benefit of your continued living you very quietly do it.”
The two young men looked over to see a smaller woman, dressed like the brunette but with long black hair, turn and smile at them, before they dropped the bag and knelt on the floor.
“Smart – very smart,” the brunette said as she walked slowly forward, the girl dropping to her knees as well. “My friend is going to give you something now.”
They watched as a gloved hand came over their shoulders, one at a time, and held out a sponge ball. “Take it,” the brunette said, “and stuff it into your mouth.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Kill you if you don’t do as you’re told,” the dark haired woman whispered as she pressed the gun into the girl’s back, smiling at her whimper as she pushed the sponge into her mouth.
“She’s sensible, copy her,” the brunette said as the two boys pushed the sponge balls into their own mouths, and then all three put their hands on their heads as their heads were encircled in the same duct tape they had used in the next room.
“Nice of you guys to collect the money for us,” the black haired woman said, “but right now, right here, you’re in our way, and we need to make sure that’s not the case. All three of you, hands behind your back, nice and slowly.”
“Whtruggntddd,” the young man said as he lowered his arms.
“A lesson,” the brunette said as she picked up a bag, opened it and took skeins of rope, handing some to the other woman before they secured the wrists of all three of them behind their backs. It only took five minutes, but as the girl tried to flex her fingers she already knew they were going nowhere.
The feeling was increased as her arms were forced into her sides, the rope going above and below her chest, the zip at the front of her jacket forced down as the pressure increased with each tug. The two boys were starting to cry as their arms were secured, and they were then pushed forward, landing on their faces as their ankles and legs were secured, and then their ankles pulled back, secured with rope to their chests.
Fifteen minutes ago they had been planning to celebrate – and now they were whimpering on the floor, unable to move or speak as the two women looked at her.
The brunette walked into the inner office, taking a pair of scissors from a desk and laying it next to the three bound and gagged women. “You are safe,” she said as she placed the bag with the money on the desk, “I would appreciate it if you did not mention me or my colleague.”
One of them nodded as she went back into the outer office, closing the door. “As for you three,” she said, “mention me or my friend, we will know, and we will find you. Enjoy the rest.”
The two women placed their guns in a bag, and the smaller looked out into the lobby, nodding as they walked across to the rest room.
Five minutes later, Heather and Doc appeared, looking over as a woman came out of the office, rubbing her wrists as she approached a security guard. They walked out and towards the parking lot, where Janice and Shirley were waiting by Heather’s car.
“I’m keeping your little mother’s helper for the moment,” Heather said to Doc as she lifted a flap and deposited the bag inside. “It’s taken care of – three stool pigeons trussed and ready for roasting.”
"Doc I don't know which fact disturbs me more,” Janice said quietly as Heather locked her car. “That you are carrying? Or that both Shirley and I instinctively knew you would be?"
"At least I have a secret compartment in the car." Heather looked at the teenager, "What happens if the cops search you one day?"
"Who is going to search an ordinary looking girl like me?"
"We need to have a big group discussion about all this...and soon." Janice looked serious.
“Agreed - but not today. Let’s go and see what we missed of the game.”
Kylie looked over as Doc came back in. “What kept you,” she said as she and Janice set down the drinks, “you almost missed the whole of the fifth.”
“Sorry – I got talking to some other people,” she said with a smile, “who wants a cold one?”
“I will take one,” Willy said as he held his hand out, catching the beer that Janice threw over as Natasha gasped slightly.
“Are you all right,” Diana said as she looked at her sister in law.
“Yes, yes – just another kick,” Natasha said with a smile, before she gasped again.
“Karen,” Diana said as Karen Boyd walked past, “can you spare a moment please?”
“Sure Countess,” Karen said with a smile, “what’s up?”
“Could you have a look at Natasha for me please? She says the baby is kicking, but…”
“All right,” Karen said as she put her hand on Natasha’s stomach, and felt for a while. “How far along are you?”
“Thirty nine weeks – why?”
“Hmmm – do me a favour, Natasha, just sit here for a while, and if you start to feel any different, get one of the girls to find me, all right?”
“Sure – why?”
“Oh I just want to be sure you’re not uncomfortable,” Karen said as she slipped back into the benches, and talked to the captain of the Massachusetts Babes…
“Well, Jo managed to steal third, and we need to get her home. Juliette, it’s about time you got your turn at bat.” Mary called out, “Bat for Angel.”
“Okay.” Juliette smiled as she picked up a bat and walked to the diamond.
“Now coming into the game, legendary supermodel and fashion writer Juliette Huntingdown.”
Juliette waved as the crowd rose in applause.
“See there’s granny having a go now,” Annie said as she waved Judith’s hand at the field.
“That’s a popular cheer Ju,” Alex laughed as she took a couple of practice swings, “how long since you played?”
“About 25 years Alex.”
“Well in case you’ve forgotten first base is that way.” Alex laughed as he pointed.
“This way?” Juliette shouted back as she hit the first pitch smartly into right field.
“Welcome back,” Mary said as Jo crossed fourth base, Juliette taking first as the announcer said “and also joining the game now, Lady Ordford, more popularly known as Mandy Carrow!”
“Now this should be interesting,” Kylie said as she watched Mandy stroll onto the diamond, waving as the crowd clapped.
“Have you played this, Kylie,” Nikki asked.
“I have played rounders’ – badly – so in a way I have,” Kylie replied as Mandy took up her position.
“Well at least I managed to hit it a couple of times Mummy.” Angel laughed as her mother came back to the dugout after striking out. “You didn’t even get close.”
“Darling I never did claim I could hit a ball you know.”
“As long as you are having fun, who cares?” Anna Mitchell said as she passed Mandy a beer can.
“Actually Darling I am. I haven’t felt this relaxed in weeks.”
“Abby and I were chatting about next year.” Angel spoke.
“Oh you are both debs aren’t you?” Anna asked.
“Yes, I think we might have a lot of fun, Abby says there are some nice girls she knows doing the season, and a few are coming over to the European events as well…”
“And of course the New York Sluts darling.” Mandy cast her daughter a little glance.
“And as you say, also Ally and Nell.” Angel giggled.
“I know – I asked them who would do the father’s dance, and they just looked at each other and giggled,” Abby said as she sat next to them.
“This is Jeanne Beckman at the Charity Softball game in Boston, and I’m taking a few minutes to catch up with a very special surprise attendee. A fortnight ago, she had been best known as the loved headmistress of a secondary school north of London, but at the Complete Style show in London she emerged from over twenty years in the wilderness to help close the show – Glorious Grace Gresham. Grace, welcome to the Beckman Report.”
“Thanks for asking me, Jeanne,” Grace said as they sat in the changing room.
“I guess the question our audience want most to know the answer to is the same question we asked you when we met a fortnight ago, Grace – why did you quit?”
“Well, it’s a complicated question Jeanne, but put simply I realized if I did not do something, I was going to go down a very dark and dangerous road. I saw what the bad side of the modeling world was doing to my friends, and I knew I was in real danger of the same thing happening to me.”
“So one day, you woke up and said effectively ‘I quit’?”
“Essentially, yes – and while I love, and still love this business, I still think it was the right thing for me to do.”
“So where did you go?”
“As you said in your introduction, I returned to England, and became a teacher. In fact, as most people who watch this now know, Jeannie Brewster was a pupil at my school when she was discovered, and I am so proud of what she has achieved.”
“So why are you here in Boston?”
“Well,” Grace said carefully, “after the show, the governors of the school I run felt I had in some way brought the name of the school into disrepute, so at the moment I am enjoying an unexpected holiday. What it does mean is I have time to come and renew some friendships, and I have already got a few jobs over here.”
“So what is the future for Grace Gresham – teacher or model?”
“As Juliette, Alice and Karen amongst others have shown, there is no reason why I cannot do both, and I look forward to discussing the difference of view with the appropriate personnel in the very near future.”
“Grace Gresham, thank you.”
“No, thank you,” Grace said with a smile as the filming stopped.
“Nicely put,” Linda said, clapping as she came in.
“Thanks, Mother,” Grace said as she stood up.
“Tell me, do you remember Grant Burton?”
“Of course I do – what happened to him?”
“He’s now a top lawyer, specializing in employment disputes – and he’s going to call you at Karen’s tomorrow to discuss your case. We’ll pay the costs, and we’re also sorting out your work permit for you.”
“Excuse me a moment,” Susan said as she handed Shirley little April, and then took her cell phone out.
“Hey Pamela, Ashley said you might phone.” Susan spoke into the mobile. “Are you in New York yet?”…”You are? Good, Ashley gave you the office address didn’t she?”…”Okay you come in and see me Monday and we will talk about getting you a job…Sure,” Susan smiled. “You keep your head down and I’ll see you then…It’s not a problem…Byeeee.”
“Was that the young lady you mentioned?” Shirley asked.
“Yes, looks like she got to NYC just fine.”
“She was in New Zealand, correct?”
“Yup – took the rap for a bank robbery, then escaped, made her way to an airport, and over here. I’ll find a clerical role for her while we assess her potential.”
“And that’s the eighth innings passed, with the teams tied now at 13-13. Who is going to win this exciting game…?”
Susan and Karen both turned and looked at Natasha as she held her bump.
Natasha looked at both of them and nodded slowly, as a small damp patch appeared on the bleacher seat below her.
“All right,” Karen said, “stand up and walk with me. Susan, can you find Willy?”
As Susan stood up, Karen could see Diana walking quickly over. “Mon dieu,” she said quietly, “how can I help?”
“Go to the captain of the Babes, tell her I need the volunteers in the treatment room – and then call Guy. He’ll need to let Valeria know.”
“Of course,” Diana said as she walked quickly off, while Karen and Susan supported Natasha as they made their way into the building.
“Is everything all right,” Abby said as Diana came into the dugout.
“Of course,” her mother said as she walked to the other manager and whispered into her ear. Nodding, she beckoned to two of her staff, who nodded and headed back in...
“Willy, why is my wife approaching at great speed?”
Willy turned to see Susan approaching him, Clint and John, looking round as she did so.
“There you are,” she said quietly, “Willy, you need to head to the treatment room in the main building – now.”
“Why – I am not a doctor?”
“No, but Karen Boyd is, and some of the nurses are there as well.”
“Karen… Ah. If you will excuse me gentlemen?”
“Go,” Clint said with a smile as Susan said “Diana is calling your father…”
“And it’s the bottom of the ninth, the All Stars ahead 16 to 12.”
“Qu'est-ce qui se passe pour moi,” Natasha called out as she gripped Willy’s hand.
“Well,” Karen said as she looked up, “you’re not just in labor Natasha, the baby is coming, right here, right now. An ambulance is on the way, but I don’t think it’s going to make it on time, so get ready – it’s happening.”
“Do not worry, I’m here,” Willy said as Natasha panted, while Karen took a towel from one of the nurses.
“All right – when you feel the contraction, push down as hard as you can,” Karen said as she looked up.
“As… As you wish,” Natasha panted and then she grunted as she pushed down, Karen and the second nurse watching as the first mopped Natasha’s brow.
“Right – deep breaths,” Karen said as she looked up. “The baby is well on the way – the scissors?”
“Sterilizing, Doctor Boyd,” the nurse said as she looked at a tray, tools sitting in the clear liquid.
“Here we GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” Natasha shouted as she pushed again, Karen saying “fantastic, Natasha – the head is crowning now, one more push and we should be done.”
“I thought it would be painless,” Natasha gasped as she looked down.
“Ah if only life was so simple,” Karen said as she smiled, and said “Okay – one more push…”
There was silence for a moment, and then the cry of a baby brought tears to the eyes of both Willy and Natasha.
Karen looked up as the nurse cut the cord, and said quietly “congratulations – it’s a healthy baby boy.”
“We… We have a son?”
“You do,” the nurse said as she brought the new born, wrapped in a white towel, and laid him next to Natasha.
“We need to get you both to the hospital and checked out,” Karen said as the door opened and an ambulance crew came in, “but I don’t see any problems. I’ll come and see you in the hospital later, but for now you’re safe with them.”
“Thank you, Karen,” Willy said as he shook her hand, “for everything.”
“My pleasure – I’ll tell Diana and Abby, if you want?”
Natasha nodded as she stroked the baby boy’s cheek. “Do you still think it is right?”
“I do,” Wily said quietly. “Hello, Alain Guy…”
“We’ve got it from here Doctor Boyd,” the paramedic said, the two nurses nodding as she left the room for a minute.
“Well,” Diana said as she came out.
“You have a nephew, Diana?”
Smiling, Diana put her cell phone back to her ear. “Papa? You need to inform Valeria that she has a grandson, and to get here as soon as possible.
“Tomorrow? Very well then – I will meet her at the airport alongside you.”
“STRIIKKEEEE THREEE – YOU’RE OUT,” Alex called out as the announcer said “and that’s the end of the game – with a final score of Massachusetts Babes 17, All Stars 16, a victory to the home team, but the real winner is the new maternity unit. If you would like to have your photo taken with one of the All Stars, please make your way to the field, and wait for the official press to finish.”
As the press photographers snapped pictures of the teams, Linda was talking quietly to a few of the models, their heads nodding as they listened.
“You were fantastic,” a group of young girls said as they clustered around Jo, the young girl smiling as she signed their books, while Abby and Jeannie double teamed at another spot.
Eventually, Mary came out and said, “Thanks you all very much – now, if you’re heading to Ju’s place, you have plenty of time to get there, otherwise have a great day.”