2 pm BST
“That looks amazing,” Jimmy said as the roast was brought in, and people gathered at the table.
"Can I say thank you to you all for being so supportive and understanding," Sue stood as everyone stood, "this has been a hard day, but thanks to all of you it looks like that maybe Colin and oi will survive it."
"Of course you will Sue darling," Daffy smiled as she hugged her, "was there ever any doubt?"
"Well while I was tossing and turning in bed in the early hours, there was an awful lot of doubt in my mind at least."
"I think a lot of people are shocked," Jimmy said as he started to carve the beef, "but just the reactions that my friends and family have had Sue is virtually entirely positive in your favour."
"See - I told you this would be fine," Colin whispered with a smile as he squeezed Sue's hand.
"Still,” sue said as she sat down, and accepted a plate, “I’ll be happier once the adoption meeting tomorrow night is over, and people have had their say at that."
Simon smiled as he said "I showed you what Mrs Bremner wrote."
"I know, and she sent me a lovely little personal message as well," Sue smiled, "I think she thinks that I might actually be an electioneering asset now."
"You will be Sue," Shirley spoke up, "you can talk about the social problems that so many people in an area like KQP face from genuine experience. No one can accuse you of talking down to them."
"That's a very good point Shirley my love," John nodded. "Sue talks a language they understand."
"Not when oi tork loik this oi don't" Sue thickened her accent up.
"No one understands when you speak like that," Colin laughed and kissed the woman he loved.
"By the way, did you catch Dad before he left for the airport Mum?"
"I did," Bobbi smiled, "and he told me to tell you how proud he is of both you and Sue."
"Having both you and him to support us that meeting tomorrow mum means a whole lot you know."
"Well it isn't exactly every day that my son is adopted as a candidate for parliament." Bobbi smiled again happily.
"And Mum and Dad won't be the only the family members there either Little Bro," Victoria added.
"No," Colin grinned, "It's going to as much a family reunion as a political meeting, even Cousin Grace is going to be there."
"She said she wasn't going to miss it for anything," Bobbi laughed lightly, "her exact words were, that after all those years of missing major family events, just try stopping me being with you all."
"Having Dame Margaret there as well is going to help," Colin paused for a second, "she brings credibility in the public’s eye with her."
West Central Park
"Have you met this Sue Fletcher yourself Janice?" Katherine asked as she passed the coffee.
"Only in passing,” Jan said as she took a drink, “I know she's a close friend of Penny, but that’s about it."
"I saw about her on the BBC News so I dug out the article online," Katherine shook her head, "That poor girl has not had an easy life."
"No she hasn't Mom."
"You and I both faced tragedies darling,” Katherine said, “but we always had family there to give support. To just be alone like that…"
"I felt despair when those bikers had me Mom, but I think I was always in some way I'd get back to you and dad, and that you'd help make things right. To be living in a cardboard box in an underpass like that," Janice shook her head.
"I know it chills you to the bone."
"I guess I'll not look at the homeless kids on our streets in the same way maybe after reading this"
The Morse Apartment
"I've read it Clare," Tom Morse glanced at what his wife had printed and put in his place at the breakfast table.
"Brooke phoned me and told me," Clare shook her head, "I had to read it twice before it fully settled in. To think that someone who we share mutual friends with went through that in her life."
"I know,” Tom said as he shook his head, “really brings it home doesn't it?"
"Tom, you really must incorporate a call for action to do more about neglected and homeless children in your campaign speaking. According to Brooke we have an even worse problem here in Manhattan then they do in London."
"So the statistics say," the congressman nodded. "But it’s one of those problems the electorate would rather ignore, and they certainly hate the idea of their taxes being used to help people."
Clare stared across the table, and said quietly "Are we that heartless?"
“In far too many ways, we are…”
Mary Thomas’ home
“It’s an all too familiar story unfortunately Denice,” Mary Thomas said as she sipped her cup of coffee, “kids fall through the cracks in the system and they end up homeless like she did. It’s not a new thing either, it’s been a problem that’s been around for ever almost.”
“I never thought of myself as particularly privileged or fortunate,” the black woman said as she sat down next to her friend on the couch, “but compared to her I had an awful damn lot.”
“Everything is relative Denice. Your family, my family, we didn’t have a lot of material things growing up, but at least we both always had family. This girl didn’t even have that, all she had was herself, and later luckily friends who loved and supported her.”
“Erica pointed out that bit to me where she was illiterate until her friends really taught her how to read and write. You can almost say she’s self educated.”
“Ai you can.” Mary took another sip. “This Sue is that rare example of a kid who was able to overcome the shitty hand she was dealt in life, but as she writes in the end, she considers herself lucky because she’s survived and made a life for herself.”
“True – makes her all the more remarkable…”
The de Ros Mansion
Diana sipped from her cup as she read the transcript. Even in her darkest days, when the Goddess called her, she had never truly been alone. A tear started to run down one cheek…
Diana looked up and wiped her cheek as Edith stood in the doorway.
“My apologies, Madame, but Doctor Reichmann is here.”
“Ah – bring some more coffee please, Edith,” Diana said as the housekeeper nodded, and showed Helen Reichmann in. “Helen – thank you for agreeing to come over today.”
“Not a problem, Diana, but I am curious,” the doctor said as she sat down, “is there some charitable role you wish me to fill?”
“No, nothing like that,” Diana said as Edith brought in the coffee, and then left, closing the door behind her, “I wish to consult with you.”
“Consult with… Diana?”
“No – and no, it does not involve Abigail either, but I need your professional advice – and in doing so, I need to take you into my confidence.”
Helen nodded as she sipped her coffee, while Diana walked to the bureau and retrieved a brown file. “My doctor in Paris died earlier this year, and as a result I need to seek advice on – a long standing condition I have.”
Diana handed Helen the file, watching as she skimmed through it, and then looked at Diana. “My god,” she whispered, “but why now?”
“I was warned, when I reached my age, something may be required for me to undergo. Helen – I need to know.”
Nodding, Helen said “does Abigail know?”
“No-one else does, not fully. May I count on your discretion?”
“Of course – I’ll make a private appointment in a few days, but I pray nothing is required?”
“As do I,” Diana said as she sipped her coffee, “as do I…”
“Hey take a seat at the table,” Caroline called out as Ama showed Sharon up the stairs. Ama was in her NY Bulls strip, while Sharon wore jeans and a blue polo shirt.
“thanks – something smells good,” Sharon said as she sat down, while Caroline brought two plates with a full English breakfast in, and Ama went to her room.
“How are you feeling?” Caroline asked as she served herself and Sharon and poured fresh coffee into mugs.
“Scared, frightened, exhilarated, sexually aroused, all at once,” the younger woman sipped her coffee. “It’s like my whole life has been leading up to what I did last night.”
“Well I know enough about you, and this weird condition that you have Sharon, to say that that is probably true.”
“It keeps replaying in my head. The look in his eyes, how it made me feel…”
“Killing can do that,” Caroline said as she took a drink, and put down her mug. “Look Sharon - I’m a professional assassin, I’ve always done my killing either because I was paid and ordered to, or because circumstances gave me no choice. With you it’s always going to be different Sharon, for you murder will always be a thing of passion, you’ll do it to satisfy an inner demon, and ultimately you’ll kill because you love and enjoy doing it.”
“And the torture?”
“It’s part of the same thing, you get pleasure from causing hurt and suffering to others.”
“Caroline… you once told me there are others, relatives of mine, who do this as well.”
“Can I ask a huge favor of you?”
“You can try Sharon.”
“Can you ask if they will talk to me please? I know you know an awful lot about all this boss, but really I need talk to talk to someone who knows exactly what I feel inside. I need to learn how they cope with all this.”
“I guessed you might,” Caroline finished her coffee, “it’s why I’ve asked someone to drop in.”
Caroline smiled as the doorbell rang.
“And there she is.”
“Hi Mrs. Callaghan,” they heard Ama greet the visitor.
“Hello Ama – Caroline asked me to… Sharon? Nice to see you, but why…”
“Coffee, Gale?” Caroline poured a cup as Gale sat down, and said “I wanted you two to meet, for a couple of reasons.”
“Okay,” Gale said carefully as she took the mug, while Ama went back to her room. “Why?”
“Because I know who you are Gale.”
“Who I am? Well of course you do, I mean…”
“Look please Gale, don’t ask how I know, but just accept that I’m privy to the secrets of who and what the daughters of Hildegarde are.” Caroline spoke slowly. “I know about both Carina and Natalya…”
Sharon all but spilled her coffee as she sputtered “The Countess Buchenwald? Are you serious, boss…”
“Yes,” Caroline nodded, “I’m also a close friend of Penny’s, and well you know I room with Annie.”
“They told you about me?” a very shocked and nervous Gale looked round as though she expected the police to come out of the walls.
“They did,” Caroline took a deep breath, “will it help if I tell you that I’m a professional assassin codenamed Dominique?”
Gale looked at the two women, as Sharon noticed a subtle change in the look of the FBI Director’s wife. “Her husband is aware of you, I have read that name in his files,” a strange voice came out of Gale. “Why have you summoned me here?”
“Because Sharon here is one of your relatives, and she needs to talk.”
Gale turned and looked at Sharon for a moment, and then smiled as she said “so I see – although with you, I see it is merged, internalised, even as it has recently blossomed. Would I be right in thinking last night was your first actual kill?”
Sharon slowly nodded as she said “there was a woman, but she survived. You sound so different…”
“Ah yes – my cousins explained it to me. Some of us reveal ourselves with changes in voice, in stance, in other things, others they are more integrated. You are young, but you are already integrated – I congratulate you. So, how may I help you?”
Sharon swallowed some more coffee as she said “last night… I killed for the first time… Is it wrong that it felt so powerfully… So…”
“No – some of our friends, and I will not say who, apparently have the same feeling after their work. But for us, you and your cousins, it is a part of our life, and yes, the feelings and the desires can overwhelm. It is right, it is natural – it is us. Do not feel shame, but accept and revel in it.” Tilting her head, Gale said “do you have a partner?”
“Yes, but he is away at the moment…”
“Ah – if he were here, I would suggest him as an outlet. For now, you may have to – fantasise a little, but do not deny it. If you need to talk again, simply ask Dominique here to call me, or call yourself – we can then meet and talk.”
“Thank you – I mean it,” Sharon said as Gale sighed, and opened her eyes, then said in her normal voice “Okay – that happened, right?”
“It did – your secret is safe with us…”
4 pm PT
"So Cassie what do you think?"
"Brian," Cassandra Stone said as she sat back, "I think that sometimes your manners and timing are appalling"
"That with all this so raw and current, the last thing Sue Fletcher needs is an approach about turning her life story into a movie."
"But come on Cassandra you have to admit it would make one hell of a movie?"
"Give it a year Brian, give a chance for the controversy to have died down...It's barely started yet."
"And by then everyone will have forgotten her and it will be meaningless."
"You know Brian, Juliette is right about you, you are an absolute bastard."
"You won't be saying that in your Oscar acceptance speech Cassie."
Monday 1st August
“They’re here,” Jack called out as the SUV pulled up outside the main doors, Charlie and Edwina getting out first and looking round as Charlie and Olivia got out of the front. All were casually dressed, as Mick started to remove the bags and Angel came down to embrace Nell and Ally.
“Welcome to Ordford,” Will said as he shook Charlie’s hand, “we’re glad you could stop here for a few days on the way to Scotland.”
“It’s good of you to invite us – how was Goodwood?”
“Profitable for some,” David said with a smile as he went to help Mick with the bags.
“But not for others,” Fiona said as they walked into the hall. “So have the parties dispersed?”
“They have, Sue and Colin to their meeting tonight, Shirley and Catriona to London to prepare for Ardray, and the Irish contingent home for a brief visit.”
Olivia nodded as she held Edwina’s hand as they walked into the hallway.
“THERE you are,” Pepsi said as she came out of the drawing room. “come in here – all of you.”
“Come on,” Angel said as she led the girls one way, as Will said “right – come with me and meet the ladies?”
“He means the pigs Mick,” David said with a laugh, “come on – best to get it over with…”
“Mandy’s in the morning room,” Will said as he pointed the way to Olivia, who smiled as she walked in and saw Mandy in a chair.
“Olivia darling…welcome,” Mandy said as she rose and kissed her visitor on the cheek. “How are you doing?”
“About as well as can be expected I suppose Mandy,” Olivia said as she sat down, “I think we are all still more than a bit in shock.”
“That’s inevitable.” Mandy poured her guest a cup of coffee, “we’ve heightened our security here just in case she tries something here at Ordford.”
Olivia took a sip and put her cup down. “Did Donald tell you that he phoned us to apologise?”
“Yes, he did.”
“I told him that it wasn’t his fault, but I’m not convinced that he doesn’t fell he has to share some of the blame.”
“Agnes has told him just that,” Mandy said with a sigh, “but like you say in his heart I think because he’s married to Catherine that somehow, and in some way, he bears some responsibility.”
“I know Mandy…Poor Donald,” Olivia shook her head. “Anyway - thank you for inviting us all to stay, I think we needed to get away for a few days.”
“Well we do have plenty of accommodation darling,” Mandy smiled. “And it’s not like either your family, or the Rochermann’s are exactly strangers.”
“True,” Olivia took a drink.
“If nothing else it gives my daughter-in-law to be more people to show her engagement ring off to.”
“I know,” Olivia, laughed, “she dragged my girls, as well as Nell and Ally away pretty pronto to show them.”
“At least it wasn’t for a tour of the sty’s like Will is giving to Charles and the Rochermann’s.”
“That is true,” Olivia laughed.
In another room, as Ally and Nell looked at Pepsi’s ring, and Edwina watched quietly, Angel and Fi sat and looked on.
“Weren’t you scared Fi?” Angel asked her old schoolmate.
“I was seeing red, I didn’t take the time to think enough to be scared. I took my glasses off and I just charged at his outline.” Fiona laughed, “I really couldn’t even see him without my glasses, as I said I just attacked this human shape that I could see. Next thing, I’m sitting across him and scratching the life out of him before Mick dragged me away.”
“Well you were braver then I would have been,” Angel shook her head.
“Oh like you are a coward Angel Fitzstuart,” Fi called out, “riding in a real race like that, I could never have done that in a million years.”
“I have to agree with Fi,” Nell smiled, “I think I’d prefer in some ways to attack a burglar then have all that responsibility as a jockey.”
“I think you were both brave,” Edwina spoke as she looked over. “I’m just thankful for what my sister did.”
“Talking of brave though, what did you make of Sue Fletcher’s confessions?” Ally asked.
“I admire the girl,” Fi said, “to make a life from that bad a start, and to get where she has got…”
“Her meeting is tonight isn’t it,” Pepsi said as she sat down.
“Yup – should be interesting…”
Mick and Charlie stood with David as Will and their father looked at the pen, the young suckling on their mother.
“So are the pigs a hobby Will, or a paying proposition?” Daniel Rochermann asked as he looked on.
“They started out as a hobby,” Will said as he looked at the creatures, “but nowadays the pigs have gone from being my little eccentricity to being a decent money maker.”
“Because both restaurateurs, and the general public, are prepared to pay premium prices for organically produced pork, especially given the slightly different tastes the meat from some of these breeds have.”
“You’re in a niche market,” Kelly Rochermann smiled.
“Very much so.”
“So can I presume you are serving pork for dinner tonight Will?” Charles asked.
“A casserole with locally produced cider and cream… Come, lunch will be nearly ready. I should tell you we will have guests tonight.”
“Oh – who?”
“My Lord Bishop and his wife…”
12.30 pm BST
9 Pall Mall
“Well,” Catriona said as she looked at her old friend.
"Well it looks a little more stylish then the old jeans and wellington boots I wore last time I was invited to a shoot at your place Cat," Shirley said as she turned to look at herself in the mirror. She was wearing a brown jumper with dark grey breeks, a Laksen quilted shooting vest, a tweed cap and long boots.
"You know I have a photo somewhere of that," Catriona ran an expert eye over Shirley's outfit. "You know we are going to have to distress that a little if you buy it?"
"I know, it looks too new," Shirley swung her arms to check freedom of movement, "but I think I can make this work."
"Question - how rusty are you with a gun?" Catriona paused and smiled, "sorry - I'm not thinking straight am I?"
"I shoot clay pigeons fairly regularly," Madame smiled, "It's one thing i have a lot of my staff doing. Amazing how it helps with personal development. But game shooting? It has been a long, long time. I’ll take these, thank you."
"Not quite what I was thinking," Cat grinned, "but I understand."
"I got what you were getting at darling," Shirley smiled. “Where’s John?”
“He went to get some new gear – but seriously Shirley, do you need to get a new gun?”
“For this purpose, yes – let me get changed first.”
As they walked to the changing rooms, Shirley said “we are meeting with our people later, correct?”
“That’s right, 3 o’clock at my chambers,” Catriona said. “After what happened at Penhaddow, I want to be sure everything is covered as far as possible. When is Aggie planning to go up?”
“End of the week – Susan will travel with her.”
“We should arrange further cover,” Cat said as she sat outside the changing booth.
“I agree – I will discuss with Charlotte.”
“When is she due back?”
“She and Piet are flying back today, and she’ll be in the office tomorrow,” Shirley said as she came out, and the two women walked to the guns section, passing John as he looked in the mirror.
“I must say, Major Hammond, the jacket does suit you,” the assistant said as John adjusted the jacket.
“Can it be let out slightly?”
“Of course – we will arrange that for you sir. May I suggest this particular bag will go well with the tweed?”
John looked at the dark brown shoulder satchel, and nodded. “Excellent – now what do you have by way of boots?”
“What will Maisha be wearing,” Catriona said as Shirley examined some shooting stick seats.
“She feels she will be more comfortable in a gilet, leggings and Hunters,” Shirley said as she smiled, “given she is not shooting. Ama, however, visited with Caroline before they flew back.”
“I hear she will be flying back, then returning with the school football team.”
“While Caroline reads the script for her film,” Shirley said as she opened one seat and sat down. “Yes, this will do.”
“Ah – all fitted out my dear?”
“I am indeed,” Shirley said as John joined them, “and you?”
“I have my new boots and jacket,” Cat said, “and Shirley is fully equipped.”
“Good – then let’s go and grab some lunch before you have that business meeting.”
3 pm BST
“So,” Shirley said as she sat in the leather armchair, “report.” She was now wearing a cream jacket over a yellow dress, while Catriona was in a light grey blouse and skirt. Natalya wore a white blouse and leather trousers, while Cho wore a blue tunic over black leggings, and slippers.
“I must say, my Lady, it is a truly inspiring place for a wedding,” Cho said as she stood, her hands behind her back.
"But, all the things that make it such a beautiful place to live and hold the event Madame, make it something of a security nightmare," Natalya sipped a little of Catriona's excellent whiskey.
"You mean all that open ground, and the easy access to and from the loch?"
"Yes. Particularly for the shoot, it will be next to impossible to ensure complete security."
"It doesn't help that the home farm is so close," Cho added. "The factor, his wife, their children, farm workers, etc. There are a lot of people coming and going unchecked."
"Well it's a working estate, and given that they've never needed to worry about security, what do we expect?" Catriona looked up from reading her notes.
"It will be even worse with the shoot going on," Shirley said as she sat back in her armchair, "with all the beaters, and with the extra staff at the house."
"The good news is that with Mr McAdam having been a soldier, he's aware of a need for security," Natalya finished her glass. "He can keep a wary eye open for strangers."
"The bad news though is that Rory can't be everywhere at once," Cat shook her head. "Now did you go look at my place?"
"Yes," Cho nodded her head. "Dunmarnock looks easier to guard, at least to me."
"We can check everyone coming in and out via that single access road, and a couple of guards walking the forest edge should be able to close down access out of the forest."
"I agree Natalya," Madame finished her glass, "but if I remember the approach across the loch is as open as at Ardray."
"That is my biggest concern Madame."
"Did you talk to the cathedral people, and to the Oban police?" Catriona asked.
"We did Your Ladyship," Natalya answered, "and they've promised to work with us. After the incident in Cornwall i think they are fully aware of the potential for trouble."
“So, to summarise, the key weak points?”
“The open ground, Madame, your Ladyship,” Natalya said. “We will require some form of rapid response, but I do not believe this is a matter suitable for our Rapid Response unit.”
“I concur, Natalya,” Shirley said as she nodded, “I may call on some specialist help. The temporary staff?”
“Rory has given me their details – I will have the office do a full check,” Natalya said with a smile.
“Excellent – so, on to other matters. How does the field look?”
7 pm BST
"Olivia we were just so shocked," Martha Heller said as she kissed Lady Treharran, "How are you all doing?"
"We are getting over it," Olivia smiled at the bishops wife. “Edwina had a little trouble sleeping, but she seems to be getting better.”
"It's been a while since we've you seen you in this part of the world Charles," the bishop said as he shook his hand.
"I know Clive, but with Olivia resuming her career, I think we might just be visiting old friends a little more often." Charles smiled a little. "So how is John doing up at Cambridge?"
"Quite well thank you," Clive looked across to where his son was sitting with the younger people, "he's not a natural student, but he applies himself to his work very seriously."
"Michael was never really going to be cut out for academia..."
"But he's made a nice career for himself anyway," Martha interrupted. "Even I adore his music."
"You'll have to tell him," Olivia smiled again. "So changing the subject, what did you make of Alice when you first met her?"
"I think Clive was a trifle shocked by the purple hair," Martha laughed gently as she looked at the young woman sitting with , "but underneath her exterior she's actually a lovely girl."
"Do you remember Mandy at her age?" Charles asked.
"I do," Martha laughed again, "and i'll agree compared to Amanda she's actually not that shocking."
“They’re talking about us, aren’t they,” John said as he looked at Jack and Pepsi.
“Almost certainly,” Jack said with a smile. “Don’t let it bother you.”
“I heard from Luke,” John said, “he hopes you’re enjoying your stay Nicola.”
“I am,” Pepsi said as she sat in her dress, “but it will be over soon. After the wedding I join the others for the football tour, and then it’s back to New York for the Junior year.”
“And I head back for my final year,” Jack said with a smile.
“I wonder what’s going to happen next…”
7.30 pm BST
“Busy,” Charles Gresham-Fox said as the cars drew up, and the photographers began to snap pictures.”
“So I see – well, best get it over with,” Colin said as the driver got out and opened the door. He and his father were wearing dark suits, light shirts and ties, while Susan had on a light blue jacket and skirt, and Bobbi a dark jacket over a grey dress.
“Fuck, I rather hoped the media might find something better to do on a wet Monday evening then to cover a political meeting in West London," Sue shook her head as she glanced at all the reporters and television crews, both inside, and outside, Kensal Conservative Club.
"You knew they'd be here, just bear with it darling," Colin gave her hand a reassuring squeeze as they walked into the building, his parents walking behind.
"It's all part of the plan to get your story out there Sue, and out of the way," Bobbi Gresham-Fox smiled at her. "And I think it’s encouraging what that snap poll done in the constituency showed about people’s reactions."
"Fifty five percent saying that my background didn't worry them, still means that for forty five percent then it is a concern," Sue shuffled nervously. "Do I look alright?"
"You look perfect darling," Colin grinned as they entered the hall, to be greeted by hugs from Margaret Harker.
“Well, this is it,” she said as she went with Susan, Charles and Bobbi to the front row of seats, while Colin went and sat with the committee at the front. The room filled up as Mrs Bremner hit her gavel on the table.
“The meeting of the Kensal and Queen’s Park Conservative Association will come to order. Mister Secretary, the minutes of the last meeting?”
8 pm BST
“Well, at least you all got back safely, Tippy Toes,” Agnes said as she sat down and looked at her papers arranged on the coffee table.
"We did – and Olivia is at Ordford with the others now. So - did Donald ring his solicitor today Aggie?"
"He did Tamsin," Agnes said as she shifted her phone from one ear to the other.
"So now it’s only a matter of waiting till his divorce is finalised, and you can finally be married darling."
"Let's just hope it's that simple," Agnes paused to take a deep breath, "unfortunately dear Tippy Toes, when has my life ever been simple?"
"Aggie do I need to fly over to smack you upsides the head?" Tamsin laughed, "stop being so negative."
"I know, I know...but I guess I cannot finally believe it’s going to happen till I walk down the aisle and Donald is standing there at the other end."
"Don't worry darling,” Tamsin said, “your time is coming, even Catherine isn't going to stop it this time."
"I hope so. I really hope so…" Agnes said as she looked at one paper.
"Anyway, changing subjects - what is Sue up to tonight?"
"It's Colin candidate adoption meeting."
"Oh yes I remember you saying."
"I'd have gone along and added my support,” Agnes said as she made a note, “but I really must get this report for Torware finished before we leave for Scotland."
"How does it finally feel to be doing the work you always dreamed of doing darling?"
"You know Tam,” Agnes said as she sat back, Tippy Toes nestling on her lap, “it's truly wonderful. Even though this is only an early preliminary report, it feels nice that someone is appreciating my brains and expertise in this manner."
"Now would I have ever guessed that in a million years...Not," Tamsin laughed. "That is the work you were born to do sister dear."
"Well it is when combined with what I'll be doing for Charlotte's charity." Aggie paused a second. "Targeted investment like she wants to do is central to my whole way of thinking about third world economics."
“Fair enough – I need to go. Don’t work too hard.”
“Moi? Sleep well, Tamsin,” Agnes said as she ended the call, and sat for a moment, stroking her cat. She then stood up and went to her bedroom, pausing before she opened a drawer and took out a small ring box.
"God I hope one day that it will be right and proper for me to wear this again," Agnes smiled at the 4 diamonds set in the engagement ring that Donald had bought her all those years ago. He had refused to take it, and now, now…
"I wonder if he will get down on his knee again?" She remembered how Donald had proposed that day at Ordford. It was one of those special memories that she had cherished for all those years that she had lived a life in exile. One of those beautiful, and happy, memories that not even being outed as Lady D'eath could take away from her.
"It will be just as magical when he does it a second time," she smiled as she heard the telephone ring. Putting the box back, she walked into the front room, picked up the handset and said "Agnes McAdam."
"Hello Agnes..." a voice with a faint Antipodean accent said before it trailed off.
"Who is this?" Agnes was suddenly very alert, in case Catherine was calling…
"I'm sorry to disturb you,” the voice continued, “it's Arabella Potter-Smyth...Your cousin Arabella Lomax that was."
"Oh dear God...” Aggie sat down in the chair, in shock as she said “Arabella how are you darling?"
"I'm fine, you know I live in Australia nowadays?"
"I heard...Anyway to what do I owe hearing from you again?"
"The fact that I need to apologise for what I've done all these years Aggie."
"Ari you didn't do any more, or any less then what most other people did," Agnes replied softly and slowly.
"I know, but I was still in the wrong."
"It's water under the bridge darling."
"Look Aggie, are you busy?"
"A bit,” Agnes said as she looked down, “I'm working on a report for a client."
"Look can it wait? Olivia de Sally and I are at Fiona Douglas-Warren's place..."
"Three of my bridesmaids together," Agnes whispered to herself.
"We'd like to come over and talk to you please."
“You would? Well… All right, you know where I am?”
“Resplendent in the Bayswater Road? Shall we say nine?”
“Of course, I’ll see you all then,” Agnes said as the line went dead, and she looked round. “I’d better put this away…”
8.30 pm BST
Kensal Conservative Club
“If there are no further comments from the floor?”
Sue looked quietly round as the room sat in silence.
"In that case, I move that we adopt Colin Gresham-Fox as our candidate for the by-election to be held on 15th September," Mrs Bremner said as she stood to move the motion.
"Seconded," Mrs Patel called out.
"All in favour?"
Colin smiled as most of the hands went up.
Sue looked at the faces of the few objectors.
"The result seems overwhelming," Mrs Bremner smiled, "can I therefore formally declare that Colin Gresham-Fox has been chosen to be the Conservative and Unionist party candidate for the constituency of Kensal and Queens Park."
As there was applause in the audience, Colin stood up and came to the microphone.
"Thank you for your trust and support in choosing me to be your candidate," Colin said as he looked round the room. "and I look forward to working with each and every one of you as we endeavour to win the forthcoming election."
Colin waited while the applause died down.
"I know many of you consider me an unorthodox candidate, and that Sue and I might not be everyone’s ideal" Colin took a deep breath, "can I ask both you, and our opponents, though to put aside your personal feelings about myself and my wife-to-be, and instead make this an election that we fight cleanly, and strictly on the immense issues facing both the people of Kensal and Queens Park, and the nation."
Again, Colin paused while people clapped.
"Can I say that the core issue that I wish to try and campaign on is with regards to both improving the quality and availability of both affordable quality housing, and the provision of effective social services that meet the real needs of the people of this constituency. For too long the Labour party has offered one size fits all solutions that have in practice failed in their purpose. As Conservatives, we believe that socialist dogma isn't the solution to the situation, it is instead part of the problem."
Colin smiled as people stood and applauded.
“Many of you will have read Susan’s story, and made your own judgement, but I ask you to consider this – nobody is better place to listen to and understand your needs, your concerns, your worries than someone who has lived them and more. It is on that basis we stand together, and on that basis that we will win in September. Thank you, and good night.”
As the room applauded, Margaret whispered into Sue’s ear “now that is a rag to a bull, ready?”
“More than,” Sue whispered back, “more than…”
8.30 pm BST
"I wonder if Susan is having fun at her political meeting?" Kylie asked as she and Rose sat watching television in her flat.
"Probably not love,” Rose said as she drank some tea, “that sort of fing really ain't her scene is it?"
"No - but as Lady Bobbi was saying this afternoon now that she's openly out there and supporting Colin, it's something she's going to have to get used to."
"Yeah it is." Rose took another sip of tea, ''ave to say though, she looked a picture in her outfit while you did the final fittings this afternoon Kylie."
"All of them looked wonderful,” Kylie said with a smile, “just as i imagined they would when i did my first sketches that day in the haberdashers."
"You know, it's that imagination of yours that is a true wonder," Rose smiled broadly, "I've been round the rag trade on and off for a lot of time Kylie, but I ain't sure I ever even 'eard of another designer who can capture ideas as quickly as you do."
"Thank you Darling," Kylie drawled with a broad smile on her lips. "That is one of the most wonderful things anyone has ever said to me."
"Oh get away," Rose blushed. "Changing the subject, are you going to 'elp your Mum wiv 'er packing in the morning?"
"Yes," Kylie nodded, "she wants me to go through my old bedroom and see what I want to keep."
“Will there be much?”
“To tell the truth, Rose darling, it will be like going back to a foreign country.” Kylie drew her knees up to her chin, and said “that Kylie is long gone. Still, it is going to be interesting…”
8.30 pm BST
“Well, we’re back,” Charlotte said as she put the door keys down, and Piet pit the cases on the floor.
"Oh it is nice to be home," Piet smiled as he glanced at the mail that had built up while he and Charlotte had been away.
"It is," Charlotte sighed as she took off her jacket and threw it over the back of the couch. "Anything urgent?" she asked as she headed towards the kitchen.
"Some bills that i need to pay, but other than that,” Piet said as she sorted the envelopes. “it looks mainly like junk, congratulations cards and letters, or business stuff for you."
"YUCK!" Charlotte yelled from the kitchen, "that I am going to try and ignore even thinking about tonight. Coffee or tea darling?"
"Coffee please." Piet suddenly had a thought, "and how does it feel making it yourself again? and not just asking the servants?"
"A little strange," he heard Charlotte laugh, "but good in so many ways. It means that it's just us two together again."
"Ja Babe, I get what you are getting at," Piet laughed as well.
"So anything on the answering machine that MUST be dealt with?" Charlotte asked as she came back in holding two mugs of coffee to find Piet listening to messages.
"Requests from my Mother and yours as well to ring them and let them know we got safely home."
"Yeah that we can't put off until tomorrow," Charlotte passed her husband a mug, "lets drink these and then we better ring them."
8.30 pm BST
"So you want to be a doctor Alice?" David asked as he sat next to John Heller's girlfriend at the dinner table.
"I do," she smiled, "my parents are both GP's, I guess medicine is in my blood."
"I can understand that. While there are no medics in our family, we have our traditions as well."
"And what are your plans?"
"I'm not truly sure," David paused, "I want to work in the field of foreign policy, but I don't want to join the Foreign Office like my Uncle Donald."
"So you want to work where then?" the medical student sounded interested.
"I want to maybe do some postgraduate work in Europe, then maybe go work for one of the think tanks," David paused, "but a lot I suppose will depend on what Judy I end up doing."
“That's your girlfriend? she's a musician right?"
"Yes. She might decide to be elsewhere."
“So let me get this right – Eleanor and Allyson…”
“They do prefer Nell and Ally,” David said with a smile.
“They are one year down at Harvard?”
“I met Jack’s girlfriend at the May ball – I’m glad they have gone public now. She’s only sixteen?”
“Seventeen in a few weeks – so she’s still at high school, but she is very mature.”
“I wondered what had made Jack knuckle down – good for her…”
9 pm BST
“But you are rested,” Shirley said as she swirled her glass of brandy, “and you have called Francesca?”
"I phoned Mama and told her we are home, and I'm ringing to say I'll be in to work in the morning Shirley."
"You know,” she said with a smile, “you can take a couple of more days vacation if you want."
"Am I suddenly that dispensable?"
"No," Madame laughed, "it's just that other than the Catherine thing everything is running pretty much routine. Look on it as being a tribute to how well you've trained the staff in your department."
"Yeah they are pretty good," Charlotte smiled to herself, "but no I want to get back into my routine so expect to see me in the office first thing."
"Alright, but don't say I didn't offer."
"So I take it Lady Catherine is still evading re-capture?"
“Indeed – and we are worried about other matters. Charlotte, we may need the assistance of the Sisters to protect one of their own.”
“Ask and it shall be done Madame.”
“Good – rest now, we will talk tomorrow…”
9 pm BST
It was the last thing Agnes had ever expected to happen – the three former friends sitting in her front room, watching as she poured four drinks. Arabella Potter-Smyth had that sunburned skin living in Australia gives you, her sun bleached hair long, and wearing a cream coloured shift dress and heels. Olivia was wearing a grey leather jacket over a jersey dress, and Fiona a blue blouse and trouser suit.
“There you go,” she said as she handed the glasses round, “I have to say, it is good to see all of you – and totally unexpected.”
“Well, when Olivia, Ari and I were talking after dinner,” Fiona said, “we decided to pay a social call…”
"My husband will envy me this?" Arabella sipped the whiskey that Agnes gave her, "he regards himself as something of a connoisseur."
"Give me your address in Australia Ari,” Aggie said as she sat down, “and I'll send him a bottle."
"Was this part of Uncle Angus's stash at Ardray?"
"It was,” Aggie said as she swirled the amber liquid, “he and my grandfather stockpiled rare and old whiskey in the cellar. It wasn't really till Donald went and had a look round down there that I realised just what they'd put aside."
"Your father may have been an old devil Aggie, but damn did he have good taste," Olivia giggled as Tippy Toes jumped up on her lap and purred.
"Get down Tippy..."
"No she's fine Aggie," Olivia said as she started to stroke the cat.
For a few seconds there was a silence as the women sipped their drinks.
"Look I better say it," Arabella broke the quiet, "I'm sorry I sent you to Coventry like that Agnes. I didn't give you a chance to explain just why you'd done what you did, and that was wrong of me."
"It was wrong of us all," Lady Fiona said quietly.
“It’s the past,” Agnes said quietly, “but thank you. I hope… I hope we can be friends again.”
“Is it really true that it was Catherine,” Fiona said as she put her glass down.
“I’m afraid so – and she’s somewhere out there,” Agnes said with a sigh. “Donald is filing for divorce.”
“Best thing I ever did,” Olivia said with a laugh, “when I found out about him and the singer, that was the end of that.”
“Funny how you’re the only one who stayed married, Ari,” Fiona said with a sigh. “With me, it was his secretary.”
“Isn’t it always the way,” Arabella laughed.
“Well, he was a handsome young secretary,” Fiona said as they all burst out laughing.
“Anyway,” Ari eventually said, “Are you still…”
“Nope – I was invited to sit on a couple of boards as a financial adviser, and I’m helping young Charlotte di Cambrello set up a charity to fund small businesses in the third world.”
“So the old Aggie is back?”
“As much as possible yes,” Agnes said as the doorbell rang. “now who could that be?”
She walked slowly to the door and looked through the peep hole, then smiled as she opened the door. “Aunt Fiona – what brings you here? Come in – I’m entertaining.”
“thank you,” the others heard an older woman say as she appeared in the doorway. "Good Grief, now I never expected to see all of you here tonight," Lady Fiona McDonald looked both shocked, and happy, as she recognised the three younger women sitting in Agnes's lounge.
"Hi Aunt Fiona," Arabella stood and kissed her relative on the cheeks, "good to see you."
"And it's good to see you Ari darling, but why didn't you phone that you were coming over?"
"Blame me Lady Fiona," Olivia smiled, "I decided after Naples that it was time all three of us made our peace with Agnes."
"I'm glad," Fiona smiled, "Simon and i did it after her article appeared, and the more we've learned since about how Catherine Fitzstuart deliberately ruined Aggie's life, the more I've come to hate myself for being so rude and ignoring her all these years."
"As I said, it's all in the past, and we can't change the past," Agnes walked to her bar counter, "a small one Aunt Fiona?"
"Please," Fiona said as she removed her coat, "I dropped in to check on arrangements for Sue's wedding, and now I'm glad I did."
"Are you putting up some of the guests Fiona?" the other Fiona enquired.
"I am indeed dear. Cat Cuthbertson is putting up Colin and his supporters, while Will and Mandy host more of the party at their place."
"So who is dressing you for this wedding Aggie?" the younger Fiona asked.
"Nick Wu, and I have to say what he's made for me is gorgeous."
"He's the American designer?"
"Yes...Olivia Treharran is his spokesmodel and she put me in touch with him."
“I heard about what happened at her place – why her daughter?”
“I think she got caught in – her web,” Aggie said quietly. “She needs to hope she stays away…”
9.30 pm BST
Shirley was in her study at her home when she saw the red light on her phone. Securing the line and the room, she picked up the handset and said “hello?”
“Madame, it is Lady. Are we secure?”
“we are secure – what can I do for you, my Lady,” Shirley said as she sat back.
“Do you know who Michaela Jones is Shirley?”
“American singer, used to be married to Unca Sam the rapper?”
“You’ve placed her.”
“According to what I’ve read she’s a thoroughly nasty bitch who has used and abused people all her professional career.”
“You’ve definitely placed her,” Catriona smiled. “I represented those two British songwriters in that plagiarism case against her.”
“One of your rare defeats if I remember Cat darling.”
“Well I thought it was going to be decided on purely legal grounds, I didn’t factor in that that thug of an ex-husband of hers had somehow bribed and intimidated a lot of the witnesses.”
“And you know that for a fact?”
“Yes,” Cat said over the line, “but can I prove it? Not a chance in hell. Meanwhile those two guys were bankrupted, and have been black balled within the music industry.”
“There’s a reason they call it Gangster Rap Cat.”
“I know,” the barrister gritted her teeth.
“So why are you asking if I know her?”
‘Because she, and about four million pounds worth of jewellery are going to be staying at the Imperial Forum hotel on Wednesday night.”
“Okay, and why…” suddenly Shirley shook her head. “I’m dense tonight aren’t I?”
“A little,” Catriona giggled. “I want to separate her from all that bling, and at least in part recompense those two lads.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“A little hotel room invasion, we go in masked and armed, and if she’s stupid then I’m happy to torture her to force her to open her safe.”
“I understand,” Madame smiled, “I wish you and your girls luck.”
“Shirley I need a favour before I can do this though.”
‘What darling? As Lady C you have your own crews.”
“I don’t have a good enough tech though.”
“Ah,” Shirley smiled.
“Do you think Charlotte might do it for me? She does own the hotel after all, and its not like I need her on site, she can do all she needs from her office at Aldwych.”
“You know Francesca would have a fit if Charlotte went out in the field now?”
“I do, it’s why I’m asking her to do it remotely.”
“Look she’s coming into the office in the morning, I’ll talk to her then. Can you drop in about Ten Thirty?”
“I’ll be there,” Cat nodded. “By the way you haven’t given me an opinion about the job?”
“It’s a good idea – we’ll talk more tomorrow…”
Tuesday 2nd August
9 am CET
The Furstenheim Townhouse
“Are your arrangements done darling,” Klaus said as Carina came in.
"Just about. So, while we are competing in the wilds of Poland and Rumania, you and Pops get to go to yet another wedding, and to shoot some poor helpless little birds?" Carina laughed.
"That about sums it up darling," Juliette smiled.
"Well while you are both away, Ingrid, Sigi, and me will be at Furstenheim organizing the christening," Annie looked up from feeding Mags, "and I get to work on my lesson plans for the coming year."
"I know we've lumbered you a bit Annie," Juliette said as she stroked her younger granddaughter’s hair, "but our being at the wedding and the shoot helps Sue Fletcher."
"I know," Annie said as she hugged her baby and burped her.
"And you know that the only reason we are doing these two regattas is that US Rowing insisted that if we want to be seriously considered for the World's that we had to do these races."
“Momma,” Judith said as she came in, “My birfday is soon, right?”
“Yes, it is,” Klaus said as he picked his granddaughter up, “and what would you like as a present?”
“A pony,” Judith beamed, “and a cawwige, and a new dwess…”
“I’ll leave you to the negotiations,” Carina said with a grin as she walked off…