THE BALL

1 -

It was a normal day at the Veritas Foundation: Kate, Calvin and Juliet were hammering out a translation problem, Maggie and Nikko were entering information on a new artifact into the database, and Vincent was going over intelligence reports from his outside contacts. The only person not working was Solomon, and he was standing in the entrance. He had just answered the doorbell, and had been surprised at the messenger handing him a large envelope. He was also confused at the return address on the envelope.

"Hey, Kate, you know anyone by the name of duPre?" Solomon walked toward her, opening the envelope.

"Not personally, but we both know several in France."

Solomon had the envelope open and was scanning the invitation that was inside. "Do you know of an Ursula duPre?"

Kate thought for a moment. "No, I don't think so…." Kate's face went from puzzled to shocked in an instant. "Nooo, it can't be." She jumped up and grabbed at the card in Solomon's hands. "By God, it is!"

"What?" Solomon looked at Kate, confused.

Kate looked up at Solomon, a smile playing on her face. "Paul's boys and I did some research on a Madame duPre. She gave Uncle Paul a pretty hefty donation and he wanted to know a bit about her before accepting it. We found out that she is very rich."

Vincent had moved across the room with the rest of the team. "How rich?"

Kate smiled at her husband. "You know a fellow named Croesus?"

Vincent laughed. "Not personally, but I have heard of him."

Kate got serious. "Well, from what Gianni and I found out, Madame duPre apparently makes Croesus look like small potatoes."

Solomon glanced at the card and then at Kate. "Just how rich is she?"

"We could never find everything because she has so many dummy corporations and holding companies and some things may not be in her name completely…."

"Kate, how much?" Solomon was getting frustrated.

"Okay. She is probably the richest person on the planet. But on paper she doesn't look that rich."

Solomon looked at Vincent. "Why would she invite us to a party?"

Vincent just raised an eyebrow and shrugged a shoulder. "Who knows?"

Kate's jaw dropped. "We are invited to a party?" She grabbed the card out of Solomon's hands. "You are cordially invited to the annual Boule Formelle at the estate of Madame Ursula duPre. It is to be held Saturday next, beginning at 8pm."

"So this is a big party?" Nikko didn't look too eager.

"Big party is an understatement." Kate was still staring at the paper in her hands.

"What do you mean?" Solomon was still confused by his sister-in-law.

"This," Kate brandished the card at everyone, "this is the single most important shindig that we could be invited to. We will be noticed on a global scale like we have never been seen before. If we are found lacking, then all we have worked for in the last twenty years WILL BE FOR NOTHING."

"So you are saying that this is a very important meeting?" Vincent tried to hide his amusement at his wife's shouting.

Kate stopped for a moment and thought. "I wonder if…."

"If what?" Solomon was confused again.

Kate grabbed the nearest phone and dialed. After a moment, someone answered. "Hey, did you…. Gotcha. Bye."

"What was that about?" Vincent asked his wife.

"Paul and his family got one also." Kate looked over at Solomon. "And your parents did also."

"So every one associated with the Veritas Foundation will be there." Vincent clarified.

"Duh! Everyone who we have acquired as enemies are probably on the invite list also. Along with our allies, and probably all the big wigs in Dorna."

"So we should probably book a suite at the Ritz in Paris and go shopping for appropriate clothes?" Maggie waded into the fray.

Kate hung her head and took a deep breath. "Yes, we should do that. But you guys need to understand how important this is."

Solomon took Kate by the shoulders. "I think we get that this is important. Why are you going ballistic at this?"

Kate met his eyes. "Because this is something that even our benefactor cannot protect us from. If we screw up at this ball, we are done. The Veritas Foundation may still exist, but we won't be able to function at the most basic level."

Juliet popped up. "So we need to have nice dresses?"

Kate looked over towards Juliet. "Not just nice but couture ball gowns and you guys don't need tuxedos but white tie and tails."

Calvin groaned. "We need to be penguins?"

Kate laughed along with the rest of the team. "Yep, 'fraid so." She looked over at Solomon. "I need to get into the vault and get some of the goodies in there."

"What do you mean?" He was confused.

Kate looked at the invitation in her hands for a moment before answering. "Haley and I had put some jewelry of our mothers' into storage after she 'died' since neither of us wore anything that fancy. There are a few pieces that Maggie, Juliet and I can wear to the ball."

Maggie looked over at Kate and sighed. "Can I wear that bracelet…?"

Kate grinned. "You mean the one you have been lusting after since I showed you a picture of it?"

Maggie laughed. "That's the one! And how do you think that that tiara would look on Juliet with the matching earrings?"

Kate looked over at Juliet. "You would need your hair up in a kinda retro look, and definitely a strapless gown."

"And the amethyst teardrop for you," Solomon gripped Kate's shoulders.

Kate looked over her shoulder at her brother/mentor. "You read my mind. I've always been partial to them."

"I remember. Haley always said they belonged to only you, not to the two of you."

"Neither Hale or our mother looked very good in them. They're both too dark in their coloring."

"I hate to break up this reminiscing, but we need to get our prep work underway," Vincent broke in.

"Okay. Ladies, shall we?" Kate grabbed her bag, cell and keys as Maggie and Juliet did the same. "We'll be back later boys."

Nikko groaned. "We won't see them for hours."

Vincent laughed as he mussed Nikko's hair. "It may be days."