Market Forces
Part 3
by Freddie Clegg

© Freddie Clegg 2007. No posting or reproduction without permission.

Chapter 13 : The Kalinin of Kushtia

As far as trying out the account management idea was concerned, Clegg was as good as his word. He set up a meeting for me only a few days later.

“So, I understand from Mr Clegg your new approach is to meet the specific needs of your clients rather than just picking up whatever you find lying around.” The robed man in my office had an Asiatic appearance but spoke English without any trace of an accent. Clegg had said he was the Kalinin of Kushtia an old school friend, though he didn’t say from what school.

“You sound skeptical, your highness,” I responded. ”I’m sure it was never Mr Clegg’s approach to simply collect stock on an ad-hoc basis but, yes, we are interested in developing the way we do business.”

He shrugged. “We shall see. I have a problem. Mr Clegg tells me he can solve it. He has always managed to meet his commitments in the past.”

I was standing. He was seated. I’ve never been much of a fan of royalty but when they’re the customer they get all the politeness they want as far as I’m concerned. Mind you if someone had asked me who (or even what) the Kalinin of Kushtia was, I couldn’t have told them. Couldn’t have told them where Kushtia was, either. It turns out Kushtia is a narrow strip of a country that runs along the northern edge of the Hindu Kush. The Kalinin is the hereditary ruler.

The Kalinin went on. “Let me tell you my problem,” he said. “It is conventional in my country when a prince comes of age that his father provides him with the pick of the women of the village to become the start of his harem. Naturally we wish to continue the tradition even though we are here in your country, in exile.”

“Naturally,” I replied.

“But here in the west there is little understanding of our customs. I fear that our traditions are not accepted. The ways of our culture are not always honoured here. I believe that I must exercise some care in the way that these things are handled.”

“I am sure you are right.”

“So, we wish you to arrange this. Mr Clegg tells me that your goal is to meet your customer’s needs. My son has made a list of those women he desires. I wish to satisfy him as far as is possible. Perhaps I could have your views?”

I looked at the list he was holding out to me.

1.Girls Aloud (especially : Nicola)
2.The Spice Girls (especially : Geri)
3.The Pussy Cat Dolls (especially : Carmit)
4.Nicole Kidman
5.Lindsay Lohan

“I think I’m beginning to detect a trend here….” I said, noting the enthusiasm for pop singers and for redheads. I wondered what he would think if he ever chanced on Sarah, Harry’s PA.

6.The Sugababes
7.Destiny’s Child

“Oh, OK, not quite single minded. Look, your highness, I think that, even with our resources, we are going to have to reset some expectations.”

8.Hooters waitress
9.NFL Cheerleader

“How old is your son?” I asked, noting that at least the last two might be achievable.

“Twenty five, that is the age for the taking of wives,” his father replied. He saw my raised eyebrows. “But in some ways he seems much younger. Even so, you do understand – this is the tradition – that he should have the best that is available; that his father should provide the best for his son’s harem women. That, after all, reflects on me.”

“Of course your highness. But I am sure that you see what a challenge this list is. If we were to succeed in acquiring some of these then I fear that a great deal of unwelcome attention might be attracted. If it were to ever be traced back to yourselves then it could make it difficult for you to remain here. Our asylum laws are flexible but there are some things that even the British Government’s Home Secretary may take exception to.”

“Indeed, we must operate with a certain discretion. However, Mr Clegg has great faith in your ability to solve problems. I will allow you to surprise me.” He got to his feet, smiled and swept out. It was my first real job for Clegg and I wasn’t optimistic.

I needed to talk to Research, I thought. I really needed some ideas on how we could set about this. Then I had a bit of luck. I was walking through Southwark past a run down pub when I heard the strains of “Wannabe” drifting out. A chalked sign on a board beside the door said, “Live Music – All Spice – 2nite.”

I went in.

It was a pretty seedy venue. I bought myself a pint. The beer wasn’t any better than the rest of the pub but the stage in the room at the back held five reasonably convincing look-alikes, a Spice Girls tribute band, thrashing their way through the Girl Power repertoire. Ginger and Posh were the closest to the real thing for looks, which suited me. They probably sang better than the originals had. The rest of the pub’s clientele didn’t seem to be taking much notice.

One guy was sitting on a pile of cases that had evidently held their kit. He looked as if he might have something to do with them. I walked over to him. “I’d like to talk to the band,” I said.

He didn’t look interested. “Yeah – you and all the jack-off johnnies.”

“No, seriously, I might have a gig for them.”

He looked bored, unconvinced. “Maybe I could get you a chat with ‘Victoria’. Only problem is she talks to blokes on a professional basis.”


He tossed a small, pink, card across the table to me. Under a picture of a high heeled shoe and a pair of crossed whips the lettering said, “Spice up your life with Mistress Posh”. There was a mobile phone number. “Not really my scene,” I said.

“Please yourself,” he said.

The girls finished their set with ‘2 become 1’. I could see the band starting to pack up. The girls were getting ready to go. “Hang on,” I said, slipping a ten pound note in his hand. “Put in a good word for me can you?”

He peered at the note but then stuffed it in his pocket. “Wait,” he said. “No promises.” He headed off to the back of the stage.

She emerged a few minutes later. She’d changed out of her stage costume; now she was just wearing a pair of jeans and a sweater. The likeness was still striking, even close up; slim build, and short, dark, urchin-bobbed, hair. She was pretty good at the trademark Victoria scowl, too. She tossed a carpet bag onto the table between us and sat down directly opposite me. She didn’t say anything at first. She just pulled a soft packet of cigarettes from her bag, tapped one out and lit it. She inhaled, let a stream of smoke out in the general direction of the pub’s grimy ceiling and then looked towards me. “Here’s the deal,” she said. “No water sports, no medical play, no penetrative sex or flesh on flesh of any kind and neither you nor I end up in an England soccer shirt. We use my hotel not yours and it’s all cash up front. Right?”

“I was thinking of something a bit more specialised,” I said, slowly in response. “How about if you bring the girls round and you all sing for me?”

“Wow,” she said, “a real pervert! Were we really that bad?” She allowed herself an out-of-character smile as she stubbed her cigarette out. “He said,” she nodded towards the bar where my ten-pound-richer companion was leaning, “you were looking for a date.”

I nodded. “Yeah, sort of. But not with Mistress P. I meant it about getting the band round for a gig. I know a couple of guys who might be able to get you some bookings. Better than this. Not great - but better than this.”

“What sort of thing?”

“Clubs rather than pubs. Maybe some cruise work. We’re not talking X-Factor fame and fortune but it would be more than you’re making from this, I’ll bet.”

“So, what if we wanted to?” She tossed the pack of cigarettes back into her bag.

“I get a venue; you bring the girls; you audition; I talk to my friends; we see what happens.”

“As ‘All Spice’ or as ourselves?”

“Let’s do it as ‘All Spice’ for a start,” I could see she was disappointed. ”Stick a couple of tracks on of your own at the end if you want to take the risk.” She perked up at the idea. “Will the rest of the girls want to do it?”

“Oh sure,” she said. She picked up the pink card and scribbled a mobile phone number on it. “They’ll do it if I say so. It’s not just blokes that I get off on getting my own way with. If it helps, I could maybe give you a freebie.”

“Thanks, but it’s not my thing. I’d just like to set up an audition.”

She looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “Really? Please yourself. I’ve got plenty of clients that tell me I’m pretty good. I’d hate to miss an opportunity to convince you of the benefits of booking the band.” She smiled. I shrugged. She tossed the card back to me. “Give me a call on that number when you’ve got a time and place.”

‘Geri’ called across from by the pub’s door. “Are you coming?” she said. I took a good look at her as ‘Victoria’ grabbed her bag and headed towards her. I thought that the Kalinin’s son would be happy enough with her as well, just as long as he didn’t let her get on top. And I was having some ideas about the other redheads too.

Chapter 14 : I Spice With My Little Eyes

I’d arranged to meet up with the Kalinin and his son in the conference room at the Prep Centre. I got there a little early and bumped into Harry as I walked in. “How’s your new PA,” I asked. “Has she worked out what’s going on yet?”

“Oh, I think so,” said Harry. “In fact I was just about to pop in to see her, if you wanted to have a look.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, “I’ve got a while and I haven’t really seen too much of the Prep Centre side of things.”

“She’s in here,” said Harry unlocking a door.

Sarah was curled up on the floor in one corner of the cell, chained by her neck collar to a ring in the wall. She looked up with a scowl as we came in.

“She seems to have lost some of her sunny disposition,” I said.

“I don’t want to see you. Go away. I’ve got nothing to say. Leave me alone why don’t you?” Sarah said.

Harry looked disappointed. He unlocked a small cabinet to one side of the room. I saw it contained an array of straps, chains, and floggers. Harry took a ball gag from the cabinet and advanced on Sarah with it. “This conversation is going to be a little one sided, I’d like you to listen and not interrupt,”

“I won’t be gagged, I won’t, I won’t,” she shook her head as Harry went towards her. He ignored her objections and grabbed a hank of her red hair and twisted. As she yelped in pain he pushed the ball in place, jerked the strap tight and clicked the locking catch shut. He let go her hair and she sank back down on her heels, reaching up to tug ineffectually at the strap that held the gag in place. She gave a muffled groan of frustration.

“There,” said Harry. “Now perhaps you’ll listen. You’ve had an easy ride of it here, so far.” A muffled grunt of disbelief answered him. “Because you aren’t being sold, or at least you’re not being sold yet, you’ve not been raped and you’ve barely been beaten except when you’ve been particularly difficult. All that is because I am keen for you to take up the role for which I originally interviewed you. Now it seems to me you have a choice at this point. Either you can accept my job offer,” Sarah grunted and shook her head. “As I was saying, either you can accept my job offer or we can put you into the pool of girls for resale.” This time she shook her head vigorously. “I can offer you a situation in which you will remain here and be treated well. I am sure you can imagine how it will be if you are sold – I cannot be responsible for where you will end up and to what use you might be put. I am sure that your talent for dancing will attract a certain sort of buyer but apart from that who knows.” Sarah gave a whimper of despair. “Now, I’m going to give you one last chance to decide.”

As he said this another girl appeared carrying a tray containing a heap of ropes of different thicknesses. “We have a buyer coming to our next auction who is particularly interested to acquire a red headed slave for his collection: he’s particularly keen on elaborate bondage and he’s asked for a few pictures of potential acquisitions. We’ll give you a chance to show if you’re suited to this sort of thing.” He turned to the girl with the ropes. “See what you can do with her,” he said. “She should be fairly supple, most dancers are. Don’t hold back - I know our prospective buyer won’t.”

I left Sarah, Harry and the girl to go in search of the Kalinin.

The Kalinin and his son were sitting on the couch in our conference room. Clegg had come in with them as well. “I am surprised that you have solved this problem so quickly,” the Kalinin said.

“Well, your highness, I’ll wait until you have seen what I propose before making any claim,” I replied. Clegg smiled. “I’d like to show you a short video and then we can discuss next steps, if that is acceptable.”

“Video?” queried the Kalinin.

“Yes, your highness. I wanted to make sure we were going down the right track.”

“Very well,” he answered, “continue.”

I pressed the button the closed the conference room curtains and dimmed the lights. The video projector flickered and burst into life with the Clegg Enterprises logo. Out of the speakers came the sound of U2’s “Even Better Than The Real Thing…” It faded down and the video began with All Spice hammering out “Say You’ll Be There”. Close ups of the five girls were inter-cut with black and white photos of the real Spice Girls as they were then and as they are now. It was interesting watching the Kalinin’s son – he’d obviously never thought about the fact that the pictures of the chicks he’d been beating off to were all taken seven years ago. He was definitely attracted by the idea of All Spice who look more like what he’d been getting off on than the girls who were in the real band do now. Plus the All Spice ‘Ginger’ was in her more pneumatic style which also got approval. The U2 track faded up again. Next up was a Nicola Roberts look-alike that we found. She’s got a pretty good voice too and if anything her hair was redder than the real Nicola’s – least ways that’s how it looked in the video. Same went for the ‘Nicole Kidman’ who thought we were looking for a stand in for some advertising work. I could see that the son was getting pretty keen. The U2 track faded down. The video moved on to a series of short clips from some recruitment auditions. The girls had thought we were setting up for the opening of a new Hooters in London. Each had a girl sitting in as chair saying, “Hi, I’m Jo (or Jenny, or Marcy or whatever) and I really want to be a Hooters Girl. Pick me, why don’t you?” Then she pulls off her top, gives the camera a good shot of her boobs, pulls on a Hooters t-shirt, steps out of their skirt or jeans and into a pair of the famous orange shorts before walking up and down to show how the outfit looks on them. There were six of them all well stacked, of course, and blondes or redheads.

By the end of it the Kalinin’s son was practically dribbling. The Kalinin beamed with approval at me. He turned to the distracted youth. “Well, my son, he said. It is traditional for your father to provide the first women for your harem. You can make your choice from those.”

“Choose, father?” the son responded. “I do not need to choose, I shall be able to satisfy them all.” I was pleased by the son’s response, reckoning the value of an order for thirteen pickups.

His father, however, was less than happy. “Son,” he said, "a harem is like a garden. You should not plant all the beds at once. At first it is best to begin with a plot that can be easily cultivated, then as experience grows, it is possible to tend a larger area. I suggest that you start with three.”

“But father, your own harem in Kushtia had over fifteen wives.”

“Yes, son, but that took me many years.”

“But father, ..” the son began.

“I wonder if I might suggest a compromise,” I said, concerned that the entire exercise was about to dissolve into a family argument.

The Kalinin held up his hand to silence his son. “Please do,” he said.

“Perhaps if we were to proceed initially by acquiring the group All Spice for your son. It seems that, although they are five, they will be easily managed as they are used to being together Because of their youth they will soon become adapted to your son and his ways. From our side it would be very difficult to acquire less than the entire group and it hardly seems sensible to split up the set once acquired. I would think, also, that the group provides a good selection of women as a starting point for a harem with a range of different looks and characters. It will provide the Prince with a good selection of types with which to develop his skills and tastes further.”

The son looked skeptical at the reduction in his ambitions as did the father, concerned at this increase in his planned commitment. “Five is still more than I had considered,” he said.

The Prince however, evidently saw that this was as good a deal as he was likely to get. “Oh father, please,” he said. “They will look well together in the harem dress. The one called Posh has a haughty look that I long to tame. Emma has a sweetness that will be so good to corrupt. The two Melanies will be a source of constant amusement.”

”And I think your highness,” I interjected, “that Geri will prove a satisfying acquisition as well. As far as we can tell both the hair colour and the figure are genuine and un-enhanced.”

“You see father,” the Prince went on, “a good investment. A good starting point for me.”

The Kalinin appeared to soften. “Very well,” he said. “How can I deny my eldest boy?” He turned to me. “It seems we are agreed on your proposal,” he said. “You will arrange their collection?”

“Of course, your highness,” I replied, thinking that I’d keep the rest for another occasion.

“Good,” he said. “That seems to resolve things. I shall tell Clegg that I am pleased by your approach. I am sure we shall do more business in future.”

It had been a successful session. I went to tell Harry that we needed to get started on the arrangements. I found him back in Sarah’s cell. The bondage that Sarah had been put in was evidently agonising, her gagged grunts of complaint from earlier had been replace by an almost continuous muffled wail of pain. She was swinging suspended from the ceiling of the cell, her elbows dragged together behind her back and her ankles doubled up behind her back. Coarse ropes criss-crossed her tits, and pulled across her crotch. Thin ropes stretched from each of her big toes to rings on the wall so that the slightest swinging motion threatened to dislocate them. The ball gag had been replaced by a gag of knotted rope that was linked back to her elbow tie and her ankles, bending her head backwards.

Harry turned to the girl that had put h into her predicament. “Have you got all the photographs you need?”

“Yes,” she said. “I think she’ll be quite good for this if you do decide to let her go.”

“Thanks,” said Harry. “we’ll have to see if she’s decided that this is her sort of thing or not. Now, Sarah.” She gave a groan of despair. He picked a cane from the toy cupboard and ran it along her thigh. “Now, it seems to me you have a simple choice. Come and do the job I asked you to do or take the chance of something like this.” Another, more pleading, groan came from the suspended girl. “Would you like this to stop?” A slight nod of the head set her swinging, the cords pulling at her toes, causing another squeal of pain. “Good,” said Harry. “I can make it stop if you’re ready to do as I ask. Can I assume you are?” Another nod, another squeal of pain. ”Excellent, I am pleased. You know what they say - one volunteer is worth ten pressed men.” Harry turned to the girl. “Cut her down,” he said. The girl looked disappointed. “There will be plenty of others, don’t worry, and this one will be back if she doesn’t continue to comply.”

Sarah was lowered to the ground slowly, the ropes removed from her toes, elbows and ankles. The knotted rope gag was removed, leaving the corners of her mouth sore and bleeding. She curled up in a sobbing heap at Harry’s feet.

“Now,” Harry said to the girl. “You can start earning your way out of here. Keep on being obedient and you can earn some clothes, when you’re fully dressed you can start work. You’ll be out of the cells and you’ll only have me to answer to. Do you understand?” Sarah nodded. “Every time one of the guards thinks you’re not being obedient enough you’ll be stripped naked and have to start again. Understand?” Another nod. “It’s up to you how long it takes.” He turned to the girl that had trussed Sarah so viciously. He passed her the cane “Give her twenty stokes with this every evening that she remains in here,” he said. Sarah whimpered. “But give her some stockings and a garter belt. I think she’s earned those this afternoon.”

Harry smiled as we left the cell. “She’ll come around to my way of seeing things,” he said. “Now, what do you want to set up for the Kalinin?"

We talked through my ideas about All Spice and then Harry suggested we went down to the canteen for some lunch.

It was pretty crowded by the time we got there but we managed to find a table. We’d been there about five minutes when two heavily built men in the uniform black tee-shirts that all the guards wore wandered up.

“Mind if we join you?” the taller of the two said.

“Sure,” said Harry. “There’s not much space in here today.”

“Can’t think why,” said the other, “when you look at what they’re serving. Harry, you really ought to try and pick up someone who can cook for here.”

Harry grinned and prodded his lunch with his fork. “It’s a thought,” he said.

The first man said, “Hey, you two guys picked up the busty blonde piece that was snatched with the redhead, didn’t you? You’re going to love this.”

“Uhhuh, what was her name, Julia – Jules,” said Harry, “Is she giving you some grief?”

“Nah. She’s in the block I’m looking after and she’s been average cooperative up until now. This morning she starts coming on to me, when I take her gag off. ‘Why don’t I be nice to you,’ she goes. ‘Sure you could fuck me, like you get to fuck all the girls but wouldn’t it be nice to have some fun where I’m joining in?’ And she’s pushing her tits at me and licking her lips.”

“Even Jack here got the point,” his friend said.

“Well I think her idea sounds like fun, I mean when you get to rape women anytime you choose you think maybe there’s something a bit kinky about her joining in, you know. She says that it’s part of a deal, she’ll give me a real good time if I help her get out. I think the first bit sounds good - let’s worry about the second bit after. She turns out to be rather a good screw. Very bouncy, if you know what I mean, given the limits of those beds in the cells.”

“Yeah, Harry, can you do anything about that?”

“Not my area, really,” said Harry, “I don’t run the Prep Centre, better talk to Rick.” He took another mouthful of food. “So then what?”

“Well she says how are we going to organise the escape? I tell her we’ll use one of the transport trunks. I get it down from despatch and bring it into the cell, tell her to hide inside it.”

“And strap her in because of course she might bounce around otherwise,” Jack’s pal interrupts with a grin.

“Then I tell her that I’m going to smuggle her out but it will take a while and she’s got to be real quiet. I shut the trunk and left her for about half an hour then wheeled it around the Prep Centre a couple of times, put her on a truck and drove her around the site for a while. She’s in the trunk on the truck in the delivery bay right now.”

“Ain’t that a gas! She’s going to be spitting pins when we get her out of that trunk,” Jack’s friend laughed.

“This I want to see,” said Harry. “How about you, Larry?”

I nodded. We all finished up our lunch and Jack led the way down to the delivery bay. Jules’s case was sitting there just as he’d said. He leant down beside it and said quietly, “Hey babe, we’re here. Not far now.” There was a squeak from inside the trunk as he pulled it back on its wheels and pushed it towards the cell that Julia had left only a couple of hours before.

With the trunk back in Julia’s cell. Jack bent down again beside it. “How you doing babe?” he asked.

“I’m real stiff,” she called out from inside the trunk. “These straps are too tight and I can’t move at all in here. Are we there yet?”

“Yeah, sure,” said Jack, “hang on, I’ll open the trunk.” He laid it down so that Julia was on her back, bringing another squeal from inside the trunk. He fumbled noisily with the locks on the lid. As he lifted it open, Julia realised that she and Jack were not alone.

“Hello,” said Harry. “I really don’t think you should be trying this sort of thing.”

Julia was struggling against her straps and suggesting that Jack was in the business of having carnal knowledge of his maternal parent.

Harry went on, “You’ve really got to get used to the idea” – he picked up the dog tag she wore attached to her collar – “06/085, that you’ll get on better here if you do as we wish. Now since you were so keen to get into that trunk you can stay there for a couple of days. Spend a bit of time thinking about things. You’re not going to get away. I think you’d be better off coming to terms with that.”

Chapter 15 : Spice Racked

About a week later I needed to check the final arrangements for the All Spice collection with Harry. When I called him, Sarah answered. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I hadn’t realised that she would be out of orientation that quickly. She set up the meeting efficiently. I could see that Harry hadn’t only been interested in her for her physical attributes.

When I got to Harry’s office, I saw Sarah for the first time since she’d been cowering at Harry’s feet after being released from an extreme bondage session. She had evidently come through her orientation without her cheery approach being affected. She looked up from filing her nails as I walked in. “Good morning Mr Ross,” she said with a smile as I walked in “He won’t keep you a moment, please take a seat.”

I did so. Sarah went back to her manicure. Harry obviously favoured a traditional look around the office. Sarah was still wearing her wavy red hair loose. She had on a white high necked blouse but I could see the line of her slave collar beneath it. Harry obviously had her wearing a padded bra, she’d certainly filled out since I‘d last seen her and there hadn’t been time for surgery – I guessed Harry had that planned in her future. I still really didn’t understand what they did in Orientation but Sarah certainly seemed to have been trained quite quickly and she seemed as willing to please now as she had been when I‘d seen her at interview.

“Can I get you a coffee or something Mr Ross?” she asked brightly.

“No, I’m fine,” I said. “How are you settling in?”

“Oh, OK,” she said. “I mean I know I was a bit silly at the interview and everything. Well, how stupid can someone be? Going off and buying the things their kidnapper needs to kidnap them!”

“Harry’s very plausible,” I said sympathetically.

“I know. I felt bad about it at first but then I got to see some of the snatch reports from the teams and there are plenty of brighter people than me get trapped in fairly silly ways. Lawyers, doctors, all sorts. And I mean actually it’s quite a good job. I know he just wanted to pick someone up and I can’t say I enjoyed the kidnapping bit and all the training and the rest but actually the job is all right. And Harry really needs someone to help him keep the office in order – there’s so much to do around here. Do you think I’m doing all right?”

“I’m sure you’re doing fine,” I said. “Harry would soon let you know if you weren’t.”

“Well, I like to do a good job, even if he did grab me like some piece of meat.”

A buzzer went off on Sarah’s desk and she got to her feet. As she came around the end of the desk I saw that at least Harry hadn’t changed her taste in skirts – if anything the navy blue skirt she was wearing was shorter and tighter than the one I had seen barely covering her backside as she struggled in the back of the van – and the heels she was wearing were higher than you’d usually expect in any normal office. She turned to open Harry’s office door, giving me a glimpse of stocking through the short slit at the back of her skirt. The day was getting better by the minute.

Harry got up from behind his desk and waved me in. “Thank you, Sarah,” he said. “Come on in Larry.” The day carried on getting better, Tricia was in his office too. She gave me a welcoming, “Hi”.

Sarah showed me through the door. “Can I get anything?” she asked.

“Now,” joked Harry, “the last time you asked Larry and me that, I seem to remember you ended up going shopping for ropes and tape.”

“Yes,” said Sarah, good humouredly, “and I never got my expenses paid either.”

“Ah,” said Harry, “where were the receipts? Can’t pay out expenses without receipts. Ask any of the team.”

“Oh, well,” giggled Sarah, “It could have been worse. You might have wanted handcuffs, a ball gag and a hood from a fetish shop. I’d have probably got those too.”

Harry smiled and waved her out. Turning back to me he said, “I asked Tricia to join us. You said you wanted to set these girls up in a recording studio? Tricia used to do a bit of studio work. She can drive a desk; give it all a bit of authenticity.”

“Great,” I said. “It’ll be fun. Have you done much operational stuff since our little burglary outing?”

“Oh sure,” she said, “Harry doesn’t let you sit around once you’ve shown you can do it. This one looks a bit different though.”

“Well, I guess so,” I said. “Let me fill you in on the plan…”

I’d just about got to the end of it when Clegg put his head around the door. Tricia seemed to sense that Freddie wanted a private chat, got up and excused herself to go. Freddie didn’t stop her.

“That your new secretary?” Freddie asked, nodding towards the door. “Very nice girl. Bubbly personality. And that hair colour looks real too.”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “She was a find.”

Freddie barely paused. “Oh, by the way Harry, she’ll have to go, you know.”

“What?” said Harry. “She’s only just started.”

“Come on, if you’re in the meat products business you can’t keep the prime cuts for yourself. With legs like that and that red hair you know we’ll get a terrific price. And Brian’s numbers don’t look too good this month – he needs something to boost his margins and he’s got some Balkan buyers in the auction in a couple of weeks, they just love redheads. She needs to go in the sale with the other one you picked up at the same time.”

Harry tried to protest, saying that Sarah had only just finished her training and she’d not really been broken properly for re-sale. Freddie was adamant. “Sorry, Harry, if you want to recruit a PA you’d better find something that’s not so saleable or get Brian to fix his revenue stream” he said. “Call her in and tell her. I’ll do it if you’re not happy with it.”

Harry looked glum but gave in. “OK, Freddie, I’ll do it to help out the numbers, but Brian needs to lift his game.” He reached across and pressed the intercom buzzer. “Sarah, in here, please, now.”

Sarah appeared at the door of the office and seemed to sense at once that all was not well. “Is there a problem,” she said. “Have I done something wrong?”

“No, it’s nothing you’ve done Sarah. However, you know how it is with slaves, we buy and sell them. I’ve been discussing your future with Mr Clegg here and we’ve agreed that the best option for you is to put you on sale at one of our next auctions.”

“Oh, but, don’t you need someone to go on doing the work I’m doing now? I mean I know I haven’t fully got to grips with all of it yet but I thought I was doing everything you wanted.”

“It’s all right, Sarah, you’ve been doing fine,” Harry was reassuring. “It’s just that we’ve had a change of plans.”

“I’ll take her back to the orientation area to finish her training,” said Freddie. “You’d better come with me, Sarah.”

“Oh, all right,” said Sarah. “She held out her arms. “Don’t you want to chain my wrists?” she asked. “They always kept me chained up when I was down there before. And gagged. I had to wear a gag. Is there one in here? I could get a scarf or something if you wanted.”

“Don’t worry, Sarah,” said Harry gently. “They’ll sort you out when you get down there.”

“Well, I don’t want to be any trouble,” she said.

Harry and I watched as Freddie led Sarah away.

“Bugger,” said Harry. “She was shaping up nicely.”

“I tell you what, Harry, I might be able to do you a favour. I going to need someone to do some work on a video I’m organising. I’ll try and get Sarah assigned to it. If Clegg agrees then maybe she’ll miss this sale and you can get another go at putting her back in the office if Brian’s numbers pick up. I reckon I owe you a favour.”

“That would be a help, Larry,” Harry said. “Do what you can.”

I wasn’t sure how I would persuade Freddie but that could come later. “How did Jules shape up?” I asked, changing the subject.

Larry had still looked glum but he brightened up at a little. “Well, she does seem to be seeing sense now. No more crazy escape attempts at any rate – she could hardly move for a day after we got her out of the trunk. Two days in one of those without the relaxants aren’t anyone’s idea of fun. I think she knows she’s not going to escape and that there’s no knight in shining armour going to come galloping over the hill. Jack said she was asking what she needed to do to get best billing at the auction next week. She even spent time trying to persuade Brian to spice up her entry in the sale catalogue. Brian was pretty pleased; he doesn’t get the stock coming on to him too often. And she really did seem to do all she could to promote her very considerable assets. Brian seems to think she might help the numbers too.”

“Interesting,” I said. “Brian obviously needs something to help things out. Still, I’d better get on with our little project.” I punched ‘Victoria’s’ number into my mobile. Her answer phone cut in; “Hi, I’m not around right now but if you leave the usual details I’ll get back to you.”

The phone bleeped, I spoke in response, “Hi, Vicky, it’s Larry. Just to let you know my client liked your audition tape. Can you give me a call?”

It was only about five minutes later that she called back. “Hi,” she said, “sorry I missed your call. I was a bit busy.”

“All Spice work or Mistress P work?” I asked.

I heard her giggle. “The latter,” she said. There was a pause. “Hang on.” She’d obviously put her hand over the microphone, her voice sounded muffled but I could still hear her. “Back on your knees, you!” she barked, “I didn’t say you could get up.” She came back to the phone. “Sorry about that,” she said.

“That’s OK,” I replied, “I guess it’s not very convenient right now.”

“No that’s fine. You said your client liked the tape.”

“Yes, he’s really keen. He’d just like to hear a couple of extra tracks of your own stuff.”

“Wow, that’s great!”

“Yeah, can you get the girls back together? I’ve got another studio we can use. And can you all wear your stage costumes? I’d like to get a few publicity shots at the same time.”

“Absolutely!” Vicky was evidently pleased. “Where’s the studio?”

I gave her the details of a converted warehouse in the East End and a time for them all to turn up the following day.

Harry’s team didn’t need much time to get things set up and all was ready as I greeted Vicky and the others outside the studio next afternoon. They’d gone to town on their costumes: all of them were in different black outfits. “I like the look,” I said, welcoming the girls. “Cover of Rolling Stone, July ’97, unless I’m mistaken.”

“Wow, you are a fan,” Posh said. “What do you think?”

What I said was, “Like I said, I like the look.” What I thought was; it was going to be a close call which of them the Kalinin’s son found sexier; ‘Emma’ in her short skirt and basque, ‘Scary’ in leather bra and trousers, ‘Posh’ in her short, slit skirt and bikini top; not to mention the outfits that Geri and Sporty were wearing. I guessed that Ginger’s hair would take priority, though.

‘Sporty’ handed over a bag of mini-disks. “Backing tracks,” she said, “your engineer will want them. Let’s get started.”

I was as keen as the girls. Tricia and another of Harry’s snatch team were with me in the control room. All Spice piled into the small studio booth. They pulled on headphones and plugged themselves in. ‘Emma’ called across to us, “We’ll do the track on the green disk first if that’s OK.”

Tricia held up the disk, ‘Emma’ nodded and she plugged it into the console. A thumping bass line spilled out of the monitors. She leant forward, hit stop and the music died away. “I’ll cue that for you,” she said, “three … two … one.” The music started again and the girls joined in. Emma started a solo part, with the two Mel’s backing her up.

They were sounding as good as they looked. It was almost a shame to hit the button that fired the gas canister.

As they reached the chorus the gas began to seep into the booth. Emma, stretching for the high notes sucked it in quickly. She gave a puzzled look and slid slowly to her knees. Ginger and Sporty went forward to catch her and caught the gas too, following her to the floor of the booth. Scary and Victoria spun around and tried to open the door of the booth but found it locked. They started to hammer on the glass, coughing and choking as they took in the gas, clawing at the glass of the booth in an attempt to escape. Moments later they succumbed as the others had and slid to the floor

We gave it a few moments for the gas to disperse. As we opened the door to the recording booth, the unconscious form of Vicky slumped through it, down onto the floor of the studio, lying face up with a frozen, startled look on her face, her headphones clutched in her hand. The snatch team went to work quickly, taping the girl’s wrists and ankles, gagging them and blindfolding them too. Each of them was folded up into their own personal transport box. Emma and Vicky, the two smallest, into double bass cases; the others into boxes that looked from the outside like music amps. “We’ll get them back to the Prep Centre and see if they go up to 11,” said Harry’s man with a laugh as he and Tricia wheeled them out to the truck waiting outside.

“See you around,” said Tricia with a smile and a wave.

Chapter 16 : A Call From The Kalinin

I was up in the Sales Centre watching another auction. Some of the women that had taken longer in orientation were now ready for market. Brian was convinced that prices were starting to rise. I still wasn’t convinced. I looked around the room; it didn’t look like there were too many buyers to me.

I saw that the first lot onto the platform was to be Julia. I’d seen her, after she’d got over the punishments for her escape attempt, being trained to play her part in the auction. Brian was evidently keen to show that he could drive up the prices by getting the girls to pitch themselves better. This time he’d set up a big video projection screen at the back of the stage.

I watched from the side of the platform as she came on stage, teetering in high heels, bottom swaying in a very short tight skirt and her ample tits straining to burst out of a crisply starched white blouse. With a brown manila folder in her hand, her long hair pulled tight back from her face into a pony tail and a pair of glasses perched on her nose she looked the archetypal secretary.

A murmur ran around the buyers. It was as much, I thought, surprise at the fact that, while she wore the collar that marked her out as sale stock, she was neither shackled nor gagged. I guess it could have been appreciation.

“Welcome lot number 06/086,” Brian said in an oily tone. “I understand that you wish to apply for the job of personal secretary to one of our audience today. I see that you’ve brought you application folder.”

“That’s right, Sir,” Julia responded. “I’d make a very good, very personal, secretary.”

“Well, please take a seat. And face the camera, won’t you? I’d like everyone to be able to see exactly what you have to offer.”

Julia sat herself down on a high stool in the centre of the stage. The screen flickered into life and her face was projected up on it. The image was six feet high or more, you could almost see the individual grains of mascara on her eye lashes as she batted them at the camera. She crossed her legs and then gave a giggle as she tugged ineffectually at the hem of her skirt in an attempt to keep it some sort of order. I could see some of the buyers in the audience leaning forward with interest.

“Now,” said Brian, beginning what was evidently a pre-rehearsed interview, “I’m sure you like to tell us about your capabilities. Your office skills and so forth. What are you like behind a desk?”

“I’m very efficient, Sir, always happy to put in long hours and make sure my boss is happy,” she smiled directly at the camera.

“And how about on top of one?”

Julia appeared embarrassed, “Well Sir, I am sure that I have never had any complaints in that direction either.”

“How about your typing skills?”

“I’m quite proficient.”

“And you find you can manage to see the key board underneath those tits of yours?”

“Really, Sir. I’m not sure that’s the sort of question I anticipated at this interview.” Her prim response was greeted with a quiet ripple of laughter form the audience.

“You understand I must have the answers to these questions though,” Brian said sternly. “Now let’s talk about time management. Very important for a secretary you’ll agree?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Well perhaps you’d tell me how much of your working week you routinely spend fucking with your boss.”

“Goodness. What sort of question is that?” Jules appeared to become flustered. She fanned herself with her application form. She licked her lips as the camera zooms in on her mouth and reached behind her head to free her hair from its pony tail. She shook it loose. A vaguely appreciative grunt could be heard from the audience. I had the impression that while they were amused by the display, some of them felt it was all going on a bit too long. Julia looked up at the camera and gave it a knowing smile. “Well,” she said, “I’ve never refused if my boss asked me to take a few things down.”

Brian continued with his patter. “I see,” he said. “And the quality of your work?”

Well,” Julia said, “of course I make mistakes the same as anyone else. But I’ve always felt that the best policy is to make a clean breast of it.” With that she quickly unbuttoned her blouse and her bra and took both of them off, continuing to sit perched on the stool with her tits naked for the whole audience to see. There were some grunts of approval and a few coughs. The bidders were clearly appreciative but somehow it all seemed to have fallen a bit flat, though you could hardly say that for Julia’s chest.

“There you are gentlemen,” Brian concluded. “Let’s hear your bids for this piece. Can I suggest $80,000?” The room fell quiet. No one responded. “$70,000 then? $60?”

“40,” came a call from one side of the room.

“45,” responded another. The room was quiet again.

“Surely we can do better than that?” Brian chided. “Excellent secretarial skills and other useful attributes as you’ve heard. Any more? Is that really all?” He looked almost irritated with the bidders sitting in the hall. I could see that they didn’t like that. “Very well then. At $45,000 – it’s you sir, in the corner. No more? At $45,000 then. For the final time. $45,000 in the room. Sold!” He brought his gavel down with an abrupt tap.

Jules looked disappointed as two guards came on to remove her from the platform. Brian did nothing to hide his sense that she hadn’t reached her potential price. Julia looked upset and confused as she was hustled from the stage. The audience simply returned to studying their sales catalogues. “Funny idea, that,” I overheard one of them saying to a colleague. “I mean quite amusing and all but it didn’t seem to have much to do with why we are all here.”

Immediately after Julia came Caroline, the girl I had seen being abducted on video when I’d first visited the Prep Centre. “Lot number 05/209,” called Brian to the audience. He seemed to sense their impatience and was now trying move things ahead. “I have several commission bids for this lot….” I looked at the catalogue. Sarah wasn’t on the list. Brian had been adamant that she’d have to be fully prepped before he’d even thing of including her. I think Freddie thought he was being a bit ungrateful given that he’d just been trying to help him out. I wasn’t bothered; it just gave me a bit more time to think of an excuse to hang on to her for Harry.

All Spice had been through Orientation swiftly. The Kalinin had asked us to “leave the rough edges on, that way my son will learn the quicker what it is to manage his wives”. Rick had shipped them up to the Kalinin after only five days. A week later I picked up a call from the Kalinin on my mobile. “Mr Lawrence,” he said. “I wanted to tell you how pleased I was with the merchandise that you supplied recently. It certainly conforms to my expectations.”

I made some remark about being pleased to have been able to help and hoping that his son was pleased. The Kalinin enthused some more and then went on, “I think I mentioned that I had some other business that I thought you might be able to help me with. I was wondering if you could stop by at a convenient point. Give my PA a call, Clegg’s got her number.”

I called Clegg. “I thought you’d like to know the Kalinin of Kushtia wants to talk about some further acquisitions.”

“Good,” said Clegg, briskly. “Maybe your ideas are working out.” He gave me the number I wanted. “Those five singers were a good piece of work,” he said. “The snatch squad said it all went very smoothly.”

“Well, the Kalinin says he is pleased anyway.”

“Yes, he called me. His little lad is happy as a pig in shit and the Kalinin reckons he’ll be so busy with the five of them that he won’t have time for some of his other, more expensive, hobbies. Oh, by the way,” I knew now that these throw away lines from Clegg were usually anything but, ”how’s the video coming on?”

‘The video’ was intended to give Clegg’s clients a briefing on our new direction. “We start scripting next week.”

“So, not actually started yet?”

“Well sort of. We know who the script writer will be at least. In fact I’m just going over to sort out a meeting with her now. Just to make sure that she gets her mind around the idea of working for us.”

“Ah,” said Clegg, perceptively. “Not actually a willing participant.”

“Not entirely, no. Well, not at all.” I said, thinking of the pick up we had planned.

“Good, good. I can’t stand the idea of paying writers. Sounds like you’re on the right track. Keep me up to date, won’t you?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. Then remembering I’d agreed to try to keep Sarah out of the auction catalogue, I thought I’d broach the subject with Clegg. “Oh, one other thing, I need a red head for the video, I think. Can I use the one you saw in Harry’s office? It would just save picking up another one. I don’t want to increase stock for the sake of it.”

“No, fair enough,” said Clegg. “It might be worth hanging on to her anyway if the Kalinin’s son has a taste for that sort of thing and Brian’s not getting such good prices at the moment. You’d better have her earning her keep, though. She might as well go back to Harry’s office, if he still needs someone.”

“Fine,” I said. Harry would be happy that we wouldn’t have to let Sarah go for a while at least.

I called the Kalinin from the cab as I headed up to Euston for the train north and the meeting with our script writer. The Kalinin’s PA suggested we got together on the Friday. That was fine by me. She gave me a location in North Wales. For the time being I had other things to do, I had a writer to recruit.


From one of the organisation’s white vans, I watched the video feed from the flat. It was great the way that the snatch teams could get surveillance stuff in place now. I could tell Rachel Kernow was thrilled. For the first time in her life, she was thinking, there was a chance that she would get some recognition for what she did. Actually she probably felt it was really recognition just to be nominated. “Best TV or Video Script by a New Author”; even being on the list was a step in the right direction. And you could see that she really thought she had a chance of winning and even if she seemed determined to have a fantastic evening.

She looked in the mirror checking out the dress and the shoes that I reckoned must have cost her a small fortune. You could guess that she was saying to herself, “Hey, a girl has to make an effort, and that’s not a bad effort. Not Scarlett Johansson, maybe, but pretty good nonetheless.” She smoothed the purple silk of the long gown down over her hips, happy that it made the best of her figure. The matching purple long evening gloves that she wore as well added to the elegance of the outfit.

It was then that her door bell rang. She opened it to a woman in a chauffeur’s uniform. It was Tricia. The chauffeuse tipped her cap. “Miss Kernow?” she asked. “It’s your car. For the ceremony.”

“Terrific,” said Rachel. “I’ve been expecting you. I’ll just get my bag.” She snatched up her evening bag, checked that it held the essentials – a credit card, the notes for her acceptance speech, and a handkerchief to blot away any tear of delight or, perish the thought, disappointment, and followed the chauffeuse out of her flat.

I was watching outside as she got into the limo. The car was enormous, big and white with blacked out windows. “Is this all for me?” she giggled as her driver held open the door and she slid onto the vast leather covered back seat

I guessed that by now Tricia was into her routine, “It should have been, Miss Kernow, but I have to pick up another passenger if that’s all right. There was a problem with one of the other cars.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” Rachel would be saying, “No problem at all.” All the research said she was a helpful sort of girl.

“Good,” Tricia would reply. “Please help yourself to a drink, there’s some champagne in the bar cabinet to your right.” I watched as she stepped around to the driver’s seat and got in. The car pulled away. I followed in my own car as the limo meandered through the suburbs, heading towards town. It pulled off of the main road and onto a small housing estate. The car stopped. Tricia, the chauffeuse, got out of the car.

I imagined Rachel in the back of the limo, sipping some more champagne and watching as she walked up the drive. I was watching myself. “That’s quite a kinky uniform,” I thought, “boots, tight trousers, buttons, cap and gloves. Those boots look a bit tight though from the way she’s walking.”

The reason for Tricia’s tight boots was helplessly struggling in the boot of the limousine. Eileen Donald, the real driver of the car, had been ready to leave for the evening’s work when she opened the door to the garage to find herself staring at a determined looking woman pointing a gun directly at her. Forced to strip to her underwear at gun point, Eileen had been pushed down on the floor of the garage while the woman wound tape around her wrists and ankles. The woman had wasted little effort in securing her captive but in moments she was helpless and could only look on as the woman pulled on the shirt, tie, trousers, jacket, cap and gloves that Eileen had just taken off. And the boots – the only problem was they were half a size too small.

Eileen had been bouncing around in the boot of the limousine. Well bouncing probably wasn’t the word – the rest of the limo may have been enormous but the boot was tiny, she was wedged in. Now she would be aware that they had stopped. No doubt she was listening for what would happen next.

I watched as the new passenger, sharply dressed in a black velvet trouser suit, joined Rachel in the back of the limousine and the car moved off. Tricia told me how it went afterwards.

“Hi,” said Rachel and introduced herself, “I’m Rachel. What award are you up for? Have some champagne.”

The newcomer smiled and took a glass from Rachel. “Hi,” she said. “I’m up for the ‘Best Author of a True Crime’ award.”

“Scary stuff,” said Rachel, “what sort of thing?”

“Well,” she said, reaching into the black velvet bag she was carrying, “it’s a bit of a coincidence, really. It’s all about a girl that is kidnapped on her way to a book award ceremony.”

“What?” said Rachel. “That’s silly … Oh!” She found herself staring at a gun in her companion’s hand.

“Please don’t make a fuss,” the woman with the gun said. “Just put that glass down.”

Rachel did as she was told. “Why are you doing this? Is it to stop me getting to the award ceremony? Who has paid you to do this? It’s ridiculous.”

“Do be quiet, Miss Kernow,” the woman was reaching into her bag again. “Please put this in your mouth and fasten it tightly behind your head.” She passed Rachel a bright red ball threaded on a leather strap. Rachel complied, choking as she pushed the ball into place and staring, wide-eyed, back at the gun. “Very good,” said the woman.

“Gmmng,” whimpered Rachel in response as the car drove on.

“And now chain your wrists behind your back with these please.” She passed Rachel a pair of handcuffs. Even through her gloves, the steel of the handcuffs felt cold and hard about her wrists as they locked in place. The woman put down her gun.

Their driver called back, “You two all right back there?”

“Hmmmmph,” grunted Rachel.

“Yes, all under control,” said the other woman. “Just one more thing.” She took the black velvet bag that had held the gun, gag and cuffs. “While I’m sure you are interested in where we are going, I think you’ll understand why we’re not keen for you to see,” she said, pulling the bag over Rachel’s head and drawing the neck of the bag tight around her throat.

Rachel, blinded by the bag, gagged and cuffed, could do nothing as the car sped through the night.

I was already at the safe house when the limo arrived and watched as Rachel was pulled out of the car with the bag still over her head. Tricia went to the back of the car and pulled Eileen out of the boot. The two of them were struggling against their captors. Eileen looked the worse for her experience, streaked with grease from where she had been forced to the floor of the garage. She had cut her head in the back of the car in her efforts to escape. Tricia ignored her efforts to break free for a while but finally lost patience and slapped her face with a leather gloved hand. “Stop struggling or there will be more of that,” she warned. She hustled her captive away.

I was pleased with Rachel, what I could see of her. We’d picked her for her writing skills but I’d thought when we’d looked at the surveillance material that she’d be easy on the eye as well and the evidence so far confirmed that. Of course I couldn’t see her face but her figure looked pretty good in the dress she was wearing and the view of her legs through the slit in her skirt wasn’t bad either. “Take her through,” I said. “I’ll have a chat with her.”

They put Rachel in one of the rooms that opened off the basement garage. By the time I got there she had already been sitting in the room for half an hour or so, tied to a solid wooden chair. She was still blinded by the bag but she turned her head towards me as I opened the door. She started struggling and grunting into her gag, I assumed to demonstrate that she wasn’t happy with how she had been treated.

I pulled the bag from her head and she blinked in the unaccustomed light. I checked her handcuffs. Her gloves looked creased from where she had obviously tried to free herself but it didn’t look like she was having any success. I unfastened the strap of the gag and eased the ball from her mouth. She coughed and groaned. “Please, why are you doing this?”

“You’re going to work for me,” I said. “I need a script written.”

“You must be joking,” Rachel responded. “You don’t have to kidnap writers. You just hire them. Anyway, I’ll be missed. Have you any idea how many people there were going to be at that awards ceremony? Don’t you think they’ll have noticed that I didn’t turn up? They’ll be looking for me.”

“Oh, you’ve been missed all right. The White Head people were very disappointed that you weren’t there to collect your award. You did win, by the way.”

“Bastard!” Rachel spat. Pulling against the ropes that held her to the chair.

“I think the press will have a real field-day with the story. ‘Award Winning Writer Vanishes’ something like that – lots of coverage along the lines of ‘Was the pressure all too much? Has Rachel Kernow followed in the footsteps of Agatha Christie, disappearing in response to the strain?’ Actually my money’s on a story headlined ‘Winning Author Skips Awards With Gay Lover’ or something similar.”

“What?” Rachel said. “What sort of stupid nonsense is that?”

“The sort that the newspapers will cook up when they find the passionate letters between you and Eileen Donald.” I had to confess I was enjoying myself.

“Who the hell is Eileen Donald?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Of course, you didn’t meet. Eileen was the driver that was supposed to pick you up but got picked up herself instead. Look, don’t worry. All you need to know is that no one is coming looking for you so it’s probably easier if you go along with what we want.”

“You must think I’m stupid.”

“No, but for a writer you’re certainly working your way through the clichés. Why don’t you try ‘you’ll never get away with this’?” Rachel simply glowered back at me. I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere with her until she’d spent a little time in Orientation. There wasn’t any point in trying to rush things. I gave a sigh and jammed the ball gag back in her mouth. She wriggled and grunted as I tightened the strap. The snatch team came back in. “She doesn’t want to play,” I said. “Ship her up to the Prep Centre and I’ll talk to her again in a few days.”

Rachel’s chauffeuse smiled, “Can we play with her? My partner’s driving the next bit and I do like a girl in evening dress.” Rachel looked even more distressed as the girl eased the strap of her gown off one shoulder. Rachel looked across at me with wide, pleading eyes.

“Sure, I said. Normal rules apply.” I turned back to Rachel. “Best get used to it,” I said. “You’ll do what we want in the end.” She shook her head vigorously and the snatch team laughed. I was quite surprised at myself. It was proving easier to be a villain than I’d thought.

Chapter 17 : Kalinin’s Castle

Wales was wet. From where I’d stopped the car there should have been a view of Snowdon. Instead all I could see was the Glaslyn valley and a sheet of cloud. Porthmadog was sitting sulking in the last of the winter afternoon’s light at the other end of The Cob. I looked along the causeway that the road shared with the narrow gauge railway that once hauled slates down from the Ffestiniog quarries to the coast and now hauled tourists. There wasn’t another car in sight.

I drove on across the Cob and through Porthmadog, past Criccieth with its castle overlooking Tremadog Bay. It seemed like I was heading off the edge of the country. I knew the Kalinin was in exile from Kushtia, I hadn’t realised he been exiled quite as far as he had.

The sign by the side of the road said, “Abererch Centre For Meditation Studies”. I turned in and parked outside a formidable, Victorian, dark stone, house of three stories. The heavy oak front door swung open as soon as I got from the car. The Kalinin was there to greet me.

Stepping inside the hall was like stepping into a sultan’s palace. Outside it may have been the epitome of restrained English Victorian architecture. Inside it was elaborately decorated with sumptuous gilt carvings and silk drapes.

“So pleased you could come, Mr Lawrence, so pleased you could come,” he beamed. “You’ll take some tea?” He gestured to a room leading off of the entrance hall.

“That would be most welcome, your highness,” I said, glad to be out of the car and into somewhere warm and comfortable. The Kalinin gestured to a couch and I took a seat. He clapped his hands and a girl in harem dress appeared, her face veiled but her body very much on display, and fell to her knees beside him.

“Tea for myself and my guest, girl.”

“At once, highness,” she said getting immediately to her feet and scampering off.

“This is splendid,” I said, gesturing to the room’s extravagant carvings.

“Thank you, Mr Lawrence. Of course it is little compared with the home I will have on my return to Kushia.” The girl reappeared carrying a small tray with glasses of tea. She set them down on the table between us and left without waiting to be dismissed. The Kalinin watched her go with a sigh. “So difficult to get them to learn proper respect here,” he said. “Now I will have to see she gets more instruction as to how to behave. So tiresome.”

“You hope to return to your home soon?” I asked. “Is your exile to end?”

“With your help, my friend, with your help. Kushtia is now a democratic republic. Those that sought to keep me from my throne have been deposed. The Council of the Kalin has been restored. They will ask me back, I am sure.”

“I hope so, highness,” I said, uncertain as to why this change in the political status in Kushtia should have required me to trek into the depths of Wales.

“Hope is not sufficient. A leader and ruler must act. There is a tradition which I wish you to help me with. In the past the members of the Council of Kalin were appointed by the Kalinin, now the Council is elected by the parliament. That is only proper if Kushtia is to take its rightful place on the world stage – we must be seen to conform to the norms of democratic societies. There used to be talk of corruption; of bribes paid in exchange for seats on the Council. Not in my time, of course, but nevertheless, you will understand how a government must be free of any taint.”

“Of course, highness. Such things can never be acceptable in a modern state.”

“Of course. But we also recognise the importance of prestige, of status, of position. In the past, the Kalinin presented each member of the council with a new wife to recognise the importance of their civic contribution. Since all are treated equally there is no question of corruption. I intend, with your help, to ensure the tradition is continued. You will find me six women, one for each of the Council. They will see that I respect the traditions. They will understand the value of asking their rightful head of state to return.”

The Kalinin was turning out to be an excellent source of business. Freddie would be pleased, I thought. “I am sure we can help, Highness,” I said. “In fact I am sure there are six available at present. How soon would you like to take delivery?”

“No, no, I think they are most unlikely to be suitable. Most of Clegg’s – what does he call it – stock are young girls, slim, and slight of build. All of them on diets, I am sure. Obsessed with their slimness; eating with the appetites of birds. This is fine for those with modern tastes like my son. But I know the members of the Council. They are men for whom a woman must have substance.”

“Substance? You mean they must be wealthy?”

The Kalinin laughed. “No, no, Mr Lawrence. Wealth is not the question. This is more an issue of size. They need to be well formed, large of bosom. They need to be women of experience, not young girls barely in the first flush of adulthood. No, this is not Mr Clegg’s usual stock. This will need one of your specialised collections.”

I listened while he spelt out his requirements. He was right; we didn’t have anything to suit in stock. It would need a special project but after all that was what I was encouraging Clegg to think of as our future.

We discussed the details. The Kalinin was sufficiently confident of the outcome to commit a significant level of funding up front. I felt sure Clegg would be happy to proceed. We shook hands on the deal.

“Enough of business,” said the Kalinin. “I must let you see something of Kushtian hospitality. Did you like the girl who brought the tea?” He didn’t give me the chance to respond. “Good, good. She will please you a lot. Come, come, you must have the chance to rest before your return. And you must see how all is well in my son’s new harem.” The Kalinin got to his feet and gestured to the stairs leading up from the hall. “Let us join my son.”

I followed the Kalinin upstairs. He opened a door from the landing into a massive bedroom. Sprawled on a bed hung with purple and gold drapes was the Kalinin’s son. Alongside him were two of the members of All Spice – Geri and Mel B – clad in harem costumes. Two others, Mel C and Baby, were standing chained against the wall with their wrists above their heads. Drool dripped from their ball-gagged mouths as they whimpered in discomfort. They had evidently been there for some time. “Mr Lawrence, welcome,” the Kalinin’s son boomed leaping to his feet. He bounded across the room to embrace me. The two girls knelt up, heads bowed, on the bed. “Father,” he chided, “you did not say our great friend was coming. Mr Lawrence, I have to say how pleased I am with my new wives. They still need much training,” I saw that even the two girls on the bed were still wearing shackles, “but these two bring me much pleasure.”

“And the others?” I asked.

“They bring me pleasure too. Although my Victoria needs much correction still.” He lifted the lid of a large casket at the end of his bed. Inside Vicky was doubled up, roped and gagged and with the signs of a recent beating across her back. “The others are less trouble but she will be an obedient wife too, I am sure. And besides, it amuses me to punish her. Please join us, here.”

He waved at the bed. It was big enough for five. I climbed on. As I did so, the girl who had brought the tea re-appeared. The Kalinin gestured towards me and she climbed onto the bed alongside me.

“You like my body?” she said reaching behind her back and unfastening her bra before I had the opportunity to respond. I nodded, smiling as her pert breasts were bared showing pieced and ringed nipples.

“Please, enjoy her,” said the Kalinin. “She will allow you anything but she must keep on her veil. It is our way that girls must not show their face before they are married.”

By the time he had finished speaking, the veil was the only thing that she was wearing and she was busily trying to remove my clothes so that I might join her in her nakedness. The Kalinin’s son laughed as he pulled Geri and Mel down on the bed with him. “You see, Mr Lawrence? We shall make a Kushtian of you yet.”

Chapter 18 : Rachel’s Readiness

I got back from Wales the following day and went to meet with Rachel, my script writer, at the Prep Centre.

She was no longer wearing her evening gown; now she just wore a simple short black skirt and matching, low cut, sleeveless top. One strap of her top was hanging off her shoulder. She also had on the stiff leather collar and the identity tag that marked out all of those that were going through preparation. Her face looked gaunt; dark bags under her eyes testified to nights without sleep. She stared past me with an empty look in her eyes.

She’d been brought to one of the interview rooms. “Hello, Rachel,” I said, pointing to a chair. “Sit down.”

She looked at me, puzzled. “I have to stand or kneel,” she said in a flat voice. “I’m not allowed to sit. The rules say I’m not allowed to sit. They punish me if I sit.”

“I know,” I replied, gently. “But it’s all right if I say so. You can sit down.” She did so, keeping her legs side by side, her feet flat to the floor, her knees slightly parted. She was wearing shackles around her wrists but her hands were chained in front of her. She put her hands in her lap and sat quite motionless. I could see that her wrists were bruised from the shackles. Her face was bruised too. She had a cut over one eye, and a puffy lip. They hadn’t been gentle with her. She could see I was looking at her.

“They raped me.”

“I know,” I answered.

“The men and the women.”

“I know. I can make it stop. If you do as I ask then I can make it stop.”

“That’s what they said. If I do as I’m told all will be well. I’m trying to do as I’m told. Can you make it stop?”

“If you write for me. If you do as you are told.”

“I’d like you to make it stop.”

“Good. I’ll send you some papers. They’ll explain what I want. You’ll be given a computer to write with. You’ll give the files to your guard. He will give them to me. As long as you do as I ask it will stop.”

“No more rape?”

“No. Not if you do as I ask.”

“It was so many times. I’ve lost count. Both in front and behind. And in my mouth.”

“I know.”

“Sometimes they tie my wrists before they rape me. Sometimes they spread my legs out with a bar. Sometimes they gag me. Sometimes they let me scream.”

“I know.”

“And you can make it stop?”

“If you do as I ask.”

“Are you going to rape me?”

“No, not now.”

“Not now?”

“No, because I think you are going to do as I ask. At least at the moment I think you will do as I ask. If I find that doesn’t happen I may change my mind.”

“Thank you,” Rachel said. “I want you to make it stop. I don’t want you to rape me. I don’t want them to rape me.” I pressed the button.

A guard appeared. “She’s to have a computer in her cell,” I said, “No network of course. And some papers I’ll send. She’ll provide files each day. She’s not to be raped. As long as she behaves, and provides the files, she’s not to be raped.”

“Understood,” said the guard. “I’ll pass the word.”

I saw her later, watching her through the panel of one way glass. She was seated at a table. A chain ran from her ankle to a ring in the wall. She had been given a computer and the file of papers. She was reading the file. She put her head in her hands. I could see she was sobbing. She stopped after a few moments and looked back at the door of her cell and then back at the file. She turned on the computer. It seemed like I was going to get my script.

I went off to speak to Harry. Sarah in his outer office doing the PA thing just as she had been before Freddie had thrown his little spanner in the works. She greeted me with a smile and buzzed through to Harry without being asked. “Mr Ross for you, Sir,” she said into the intercom. Harry told her to send me in and she ushered me through the door into his office.

“How are things now Sarah’s back in her seat?” I asked.

“Fine,” said Harry. “Thanks for your help with that. I don’t know why Brian wouldn’t take her for that sale. She’d have helped his numbers no end. Freddie was furious.”

“Was he? He didn’t say anything.”

“No, that‘s the worst time. Freddie when he’s quiet is a worrying prospect.”

“Well, I guess that’s Brian’s problem,” I said. I wasn’t feeling terribly sympathetic. “Still, what I wanted to see you for was this video stuff I’m doing. I ought to include Sarah, because I told Freddie that was why we were hanging on to her. It’s only some prototype stuff at the moment but I’ll need her for a few days. Is that OK?”

“Sure,” said Harry, “I can hardly complain can I? She wouldn’t be here at all if you hadn’t put your ideas up. I’ll set it up now.” He buzzed on the intercom. “Sarah, come in please.”

“Yes at once,” she said and was through the door almost before the click of the intercom had died away.

“Sarah,” Harry said. “Larry wants to make a video, an example of the stuff we’re going to use to help sell girls on the web site. He’s asked that you take part in it.”

“Well if you can do without me. I mean I don’t want to let you down.“

“That’s all right, Sarah. Please do all you can to help Larry.”

“Oh, of course, if you say so.”

I turned to Sarah. “Let me explain a bit about this. I need a short sequence of a slave selling herself. You’ll be interviewed on camera, asked to show some of your dancing skills, that sort of thing. You needn’t worry about it too much, we’ll steer you through it.” I didn’t wait for her response. “We’ll start right now.” Harry put in a call from his phone. A few moments later a guard appeared. I asked him to take Sarah over to the room I’d had set up. “They'll sort you out there," I said to Sarah. The guard gripped her by the arm and almost pulled her through the door.

Two days later with Sarah returned to her cell I took the video up to show Harry. “I thought you might like a preview,” I said, slipping the disk into his DVD player. The video opened with a close up shot of Sarah’s face, her mouth distended by a bright red ball gag. Behind her head, out of sight, the strap was loosened and the gag pulled clear. She worked her jaws to relieve the stiffness, licked her lips and swallowed. “Thank you,” she said.

“Right, #06/085,” it was my own voice off camera. “You are going to need to be convincing if you want to stand out from all the other slaves on offer. Let the buyers see what they would be getting first of all. Stand up!”

The camera zoomed back as Sarah got to her feet. You could see that she was wearing a short tight fitting mini-dress with cap sleeves and a scooped neckline that just showed some cleavage and, of course, her collar. She held her hands modestly in front of herself. Her hair was loose, as red as ever, hanging in waves to her shoulders.

“Turn around!” Sarah did so, compliant as always. As she did so the camera zoomed out further giving a shot of her legs in black tights. “And sit please.” Again she did as she was told, sitting in the approved manner, feet side by side and flat to the floor, hands in her lap. The camera zoomed in slowly to fill the screen with a shot of Sarah from the waist upwards.

“Personal details,” I said peremptorily.

“I am #06/085,” she answered. “23 years old and five feet four inches tall. I weigh 115 pounds normally. You can see I’m a red head, I think. I was collected in early March and I’ve completed my basic training. I’ve learned the basics of obedience and I hope that my trainers would agree that I have been a good student.” She turned to look at the camera and bit her lower lip, obviously concerned that the audience should indeed believe her.

“You’re a dancer, I believe. You have some skills in that area which I am sure prospective purchasers would be interested in. Please show us.”

“Oh, well, I’m not a professional or anything it’s just what I do at week ends at the clubs in town for fun. But if you think the buyers would like to see it, of course I will.”

She got to her feet. A Northern Soul medley kicked off on the sound track. I know they’re corny but I’ve always been a sucker for the floor fillers from the Wigan Casino and I reckoned they would fit our demographic better than some of the techno that turns up in the clubs now. Curtiss Mayfield started off with “Move on Up”. Sarah seemed to managing it nicely. I’m no expert on dance and I certainly couldn’t tell you anything about her moves except to say that she managed to combine an athletic movement with a graceful timing and soulful interpretation of the music. It looked like, for a few minutes she’d forgotten where she was and why she was doing what she was doing. Her hair span out like a halo around her head as she gyrated in time with the music. K C & the Sunshine Band came on with ‘She’s the Queen of Clubs”. Sarah picked up her tempo to match. I had her finished on a slower track; Frank Wilson’s ‘Do I love You?’ She did the business to that as well. I left off the tracks that I thought might upset her. I didn’t think Fontella Bass and ‘Rescue Me’ or Edwin Star and ‘SOS’ would be quite the thing.

The music stopped and Sarah returned to her seat. “Thank you,” I said.

“Was that all right?” she asked looking over her shoulder towards where she had been dancing. “I could do some more if it helps?” She looked back towards the camera. “I hope everyone enjoyed that. Please watch the rest.” She smiled nervously, uncertain of what was to happen next.

“That’s fine #085,” I said, “But now we need to see some more of your body.” She started as two masked guards came in and gripped her by either arm. In and admirable display of obedience she allowed herself to be led from the stage only to reappear moments later. In the intervening moments she had been stripped of her dress. Now she wore only bra, panties, stockings, a suspender belt, high heeled shoes and her slave stock collar. Her gag was back in place, forcing her lips into a big round ‘O’.

“Walk up and down, please, 085,” I said. She did as she was asked, swinging her legs from her hips, making the most of her heels, clasping her hands behind her back as she had been instructed. “And, stop. Hand behind your head.” The camera panned over her body lingering in close up over her tits, belly, hips, crotch and calves. “Turn around please.” The camera tracked up. “And bend please.” She reached forward, Fit as she was, she had no difficulty in clutching her ankles as I had asked. The camera took a good shot of her tight arse before zooming back to see her looking back through her spread legs, her red hair tumbling to the floor behind her head.

“And move again please.” Sarah got up and span around. She placed her right hand on the chair she had been sitting on and lifted her left leg until it was at hip height. She changed hands and did the same with her right leg. The audience would be in no doubt of her athletic abilities. “Let us see your breasts, please.” She looked at me for a moment and then obediently reached behind her back and unfastened her bra, stripping it off and dropping it on the chair. The camera zoomed in again, filling the screen with her pert breasts and the dark areolas surrounding her nipples. The camera zoomed out. “And walk.” She began to parade up and down the platform. “Head up, back straight,” I ordered. She stiffened in response. “Shoulders back, breasts out. And turn….” She walked back. “And turn. Keep your shoulders back and breasts out please. Thank you. And turn…”

The video footage came to a close. The screen went black.

“What do you think?” I said to Harry.

“Well she knows how to take direction, that’s for certain,” he said with a grin. “But I think I knew that already. Seriously though I think it looks quite good. Have you worked out what you’re doing with it yet?”

“Yeah, I think so. But at least with that in the can we can convince Freddie we’ve done something and she can get back to work in your office tomorrow.”

“Well, thanks for that Larry,” Harry said. "It’s been a real help having her around. Let’s hope we can keep on thinking of excuses to hang on to her.”

Chapter 19 : Something for the weekend

The Kalinin’s requirements for Council of Kushtia had been precise. Between him and his son, I was coming to understand that Kushtians were capable of developing fairly specific tastes.

Luckily, I’d been able to work out how to satisfy them.

I was sitting in the lounge of a comfortable 1930’s style house, looking out across a perfectly manicured lawn. The rum punch on the table in front of me was completing a pleasant afternoon. I was about to be joined by Alessa Moran, which was possibly the only down-side. I’d worked with Alessa before. She could be over-powering, tiresome even, but she could usually fix things.

Alessa burst through the double doors from the hall. “Larry,” she gushed, “how LOVELY to see you.”

“Alessa,” I responded getting to my feet. “Always a pleasure.” Like everything else, Alessa invariably took greetings to extreme. The conventional kiss on either cheek was, as usual, repeated three times and accompanied by a rib crushing embrace.

“Well,” she said, “this was a little challenge, wasn’t it?” Alessa looked, as always, striking. Her black jacket and skirt were perfectly tailored; her buttercup yellow blouse contrasted with the suit and her own dark skin. She sat down and crossed her legs, smiling all the time. She shook her head as she laughed, her mass of tightly curled, black hair bounced like a sprung ball. She was an incorrigible flirt. I could tell that she knew exactly how far up her thighs her skirt had ridden. “But such fun and so good to be working with you again.”

“I’m sure you’ve come up trumps, Alessa. I hope you were able to keep this quiet?”

“Absolutely, Larry, absolutely. All done through my company, no mention of anyone else. You know me, the soul of discretion.”

Alessa was the soul of discretion like Liberace was shy but we’d been monitoring her emails and her mobile. It seemed like she had managed to keep her mouth shut about this little project.

“It’s very exciting, Larry! I’d never realised you had contacts in the fashion business. And it’s such an exciting idea, why shouldn’t bigger ladies have sexy swimwear too?”

“So, you’ve managed to find me some models.”

“Of course, Larry, of course. They’re getting changed now. Six lovely ladies. I think they’ll fit the bill for your project.”

I’d just passed on the Kalinin’s requirements to Alessa though I had interpreted the way in which the Kalinin had expressed them. Six women, he had said. At least 40 years old, possessed of a bosom able to comfort a man after many days in the desert and a seat that will endure ten days ride on a camel. I had also not been entirely honest about the exact reason why I was interested in seeing them. Alessa thought they were going to model a new range of swimwear for the well endowed, mature woman. And she was right, they were right now, it was just I had other plans for their future. “Well, let’s see them, then,” I said.

“Right away, Larry, right away. I’ll just check that they’ve got changed. They were all supposed to bring a costume but you know what models are like.” Alessa wandered off in the direction of the hall. She returned moments later. “All ready, Larry, darling,” she said. “All ready. You sit down and we’ll give you a show. Oh, I brought some music.”

She slipped a CD into the hi-fi and pressed ‘play’. Strains of the Beautiful South spilled out of the speakers. “She’s a perfect ten, but she wears a twelve. Honey keep a little two for me….” I put my head in my hands. Alessa was definitely the down side of this project.

The first of her models strode in wearing a shiny black one piece bathing suit. She certainly fitted the bill – probably forty two or forty four inches around the chest. Her swim suit was well cut and lycra does a wonderful job. She stopped in front of me to spin around. I guessed she was forty five years old, maybe a little more. She was well covered, for sure, and while she didn’t have the body of a fitness freak, she still looked as if she took care of herself. She posed, hands on hips, directly in front of me, smiled, turned and left. At the rear, she was sufficiently well upholstered to cope with the Kalinin’s notional camel ride, I thought. Not bad for a woman of her age.

The next went through the same routine. She was bigger breasted and a little bigger around the waist and a little shorter too, blonde hair and a really friendly smile. She would be fine too, I thought as she left the room.

Four more followed, each stepping confidently across the room, high heeled mules clacking on the wooden floor. At the end all six returned and stood in one long line across the room. Alessa made a big thing of the costumes. “I hope you approve Larry, you said they’d be doing swimsuit modelling. I told them all to bring something that showed them at their best. Look at the woman on the end there, doesn’t she just show that an older woman can wear a two piece if it’s well designed and well made? Don’t you agree? And that purple costume is really the right colour for the one on the left, isn’t it. Such a flattering shade. I only hope I’ve got their same fashion sense when I get to their age.” She smiled in anticipation of a compliment. I grunted in response. It didn’t dampen her enthusiasm. “And they’re all available for an overseas assignment at short notice, just like you asked. Three of them are single, two of them have just divorced, and the other one is widowed.” she laughed. “I found them through that divorcees, widows & singles support group. Such a clever idea of yours. They’ll all be glad of a bit of excitement, I should think!”

I asked the girls to walk around in a circle. I needed to be sure they’d fit the bill but I was pretty confident that the Kalinin would approve. Irritating as she was, Alessa had done a good job. Two blondes, three brunettes – two of them greying slightly with a salt and pepper look – and one suspiciously orange-haired redhead. Two long legged and tall, two of them rather short. All of them well covered and with bosoms that would offer sufficient comfort. They might all be over forty but they certainly didn’t look over the hill. I thought the range would get the Kalinin’s approval. Without knowing the tastes of the individual Councillors it was difficult but I guessed there would be something to suit each of them.

I clapped my hands. “Thank you ladies, thank you. That was fine. If you’d like to get dressed now...” The six of them relaxed and left the room, chatting and giggling like young girls. I turned to Alessa. “Well,” I said, “we need to talk. Let me just make a call. Excuse me.”

I followed the girls out into the hall, leaving Alessa in the lounge. As the last of the six went back into their changing room one of the snatch squad emerged from the room next door. I gave him a thumbs up sign. “They’re fine, I said. “All six.” He smiled and went back into his room. I went back to Alessa.

“You like, Larry? You like?” Alessa was as enthusiastic as ever. “You see how I meet your every need?” She smiled at me encouragingly and sat back, opening the jacket of her suit. Her own bosom was as well able to offer comfort as those of her models. She’d taken the opportunity while I was out of the room to undo one more button of her blouse. The cleavage revealed looked as if it would swallow a small Kushtian without a trace. I suppose it was intended to distract me.

“Very good Alessa. Absolutely fine. Just what I was looking for. They’ll be perfect.”

“So where are you planning to do the photo-shoot? Somewhere exotic I hope”

“Exotic? Yes, I guess you’d call it exotic.” I was thinking that I didn’t actually know much about Kushtia but I was working on the basis that anywhere that you hadn’t heard of was likely to count as exotic.

“Well, I hope I’m invited too. After all the trouble in setting this up, Larry, it’s the least you can do. I fancy a little winter sunshine. We could enjoy ourselves while the girls work.”

“Alessa, I’d love you to come. In fact I’m going to absolutely insist.”

“Wonderful, Larry wonderful.” Alessa beamed. “When are we going?”

“Oh quite soon. I want to get on with this project quickly.”

“Terrific, I’ll tell the girls right now.” Alessa leapt to her feet and was off towards the changing room as quickly as she could go in the heels she was wearing. I followed her. She was going to find out sooner or later, it was really too much effort to try to damp down her enthusiasm.

As Alessa burst through the door to the room that the girls had been using to change, she gave a startled cry at the sight in front of her. Two men were busily applying ropes to two of the women, Tricia, the third member of the team, was holding two others at gun point with their hands in the air. She gave me a friendly wave. The last two had already been roped and gagged and were sitting on the floor trying vainly to free themselves; rolling from side to side in attempts to loosen their bonds and grunting in a frustrated way into their gags.

Tricia turned her attention to Alessa. “Over here lady,” she said. “Join these two. Hands up and keep quiet.” Alessa did as she was told, first staring at the pistol that was jammed against her belly and then watching in horror as the last two of her models were forced to the floor to be tightly trussed.

“Larry, what on earth is this?” Allessa gasped. I didn’t bother to answer her.

I looked around at the way things were going. The team had done a neat job. Two of the girls were still in their swimming costumes, the one in the black lycra one piece was putting up quite a struggle but the ropes were showing no signs of letting her get free, the one in purple seemed to have abandoned hope of escape already, staring in terror at each of the snatch team in turn. One of the others had got into her skirt but she hadn’t put on her bra or top when the snatch team had disturbed them. They’d had fun with tying her up, lengths of white rope criss-crossing her tits, cutting painfully into the flesh. The redhead was completely naked, she was rolling around on the carpet grunting and groaning into her gag. The other two had got back into their street cloths before the snatch team came in. It didn’t really matter; they were all going to be stripped off back at the Prep Centre anyway.

Alessa was fuming. “Larry, what is going on?” she demanded. “This isn’t the sort of thing I expect.” Even with her hands up and a gun pointing at her she seemed to think she should be able to control things. Tricia didn’t seem impressed.

“Is this one coming too?” she asked.

“Oh, yes," I replied. "She’s really keen to join the trip. Aren’t you Alessa?”

Alessa turned towards me. “Have you gone mad?” she fumed. “Oww!” She yelped as one of the team grabbed her arms and wrenched them behind her back. The ropes were jerked tight around her wrists and then her elbows. She kicked out at the man, scraping the heel of her shoe down his shin. In response he dragged her around and pushed her down face down across the large table that stood against the wall. The impact knocked the wind from her. “Dumb bitch!” the man exclaimed passing a loop of rope around her ankles and knotting it off. “That’ll slow you down.” He pulled her up from the table and span her around.

I walked across to where she was. One of the snatch squad’s kit bags was sitting on the table. I rummaged in it and pulled out a wad of foam. “Alessa,” I said, “after having to put up with your constant stream of chatter, you’ve no idea how much pleasure this gives me.” I nodded to the man holding her. He grabbed at her curly, jet black hair and pulled. She reacted with a yelp and I pushed the foam into her open mouth. Ignoring her choking and spluttering I slapped a length of tape across her mouth and followed it with two more. Alessa’s muffled groans and protests joined the chorus of complaint from the six other, helpless, women.

“Shall we get them shipped out?” the man holding Alessa asked. The captive women set to with a chorus of muffled grunts of complaint.

“Yeah, sure, I answered, earning still more terrified moans. “But just one thing.” I turned back to Alessa who was still struggling against her captor. “Alessa, dear,” I said, “you’ve really been taking great trouble to flash your legs at me today. So I think I should take a closer look.” I reached around her and unclipped the waist band of her skirt, I slid the zip down and let her skirt fall to the floor. “Very nice,” I said admiring the sight of her legs. “And you’ve been so keen to show me what’s in your jacket, I can hardly miss out on that, can I?” I pushed the jacket back off her shoulders.

She squealed as I grasped her blouse and tore it open. “Excellent,” I said, as I pulled the blouse back to expose her breasts, her yellow bra and panties pale against her almost black skin. “Well, I think they’ll be plenty of people enjoying that view over the next few days.” I turned to the man holding Alessa. “O.K.” I said. “Now we can go. Let’s get them on the truck.”

Chapter 20 : Not In The Script

With the Kalinin’s requirements well in hand, I had some time to spend on the video. I’d sketched out the framework for Rachel and she’d already let me have a storyboard . I’d set up to visit the Prep Centre to run through the script.

I’d told them to let her have some decent clothes as long as she was behaving. When I got there I could see that she was making an effort to impress, she’d obviously been well enough behaved to keep the guards happy. Or maybe she’d been using some other talents to achieve the same ends.

One thing that I’d found while working for Clegg was there wasn’t much time for civilised conversation with the guests. It was a pretty much relentless production line that ran them from the pick up point to the Sales Centre and out. A shame really, I thought, as I looked at Rachel.

They’d put her to work in one of the Prep Centre cells. She was sitting at the table that held her computer. She had a brown manila folder in front of her. “Well, Miss Kernow,” I said. “You look rather better than when I last saw you.” The bruises had gone and the cuts had healed. She’d managed to find a colourful, knee length skirt and a pale blue sweater from somewhere. She looked, well, attractive, in a girl-next-door sort of way. Of course, she still had the leather collar and tag on, which spoiled the effect somewhat.

“They stopped raping me,” she said. “Thank you.”

“That was the deal,” I said. “You write for me and you don’t get raped. I bet you didn’t get as good an offer as that from your regular literary agent.”

She gave me a humourless grin. “Does the same thing go when I give you the script or does that mean you just take your turn then?”

“That’s not very kind,” I said, though I’d been thinking she look a whole lot cuter with the skirt up around her waist and the sweater up around her neck. But that’s what working for Clegg does – it tends to change the way you look at girls. “There will be other projects,” I said. “Maybe we can keep the arrangement going.” I sat down at the desk. “Show me what you’ve done.”

She hesitated a moment before pushing the folder across to me. I opened it. The neatly printed sheets inside were clearly laid out. Scenes, camera angles and shots, dialogue, sound effects, it all seemed to be there. I started reading through it.


[Scene 100 : Graphics : Logo and titles

SFX AUDIO TRACK: “Weapon of Choice”

We see the opening credit sequence, finishing on the logo of Clegg Enterprises and the title : “CHOICE”

Scene 110 : Exterior : a car parked in a dark country lane.


SFX: AUDIO TRACK: “Just what you’ve always wanted”


We see the boot lid open. Inside there is a blanket. A hand appears from out of shot and pulls the blanket away. Beneath is the face of a girl. She is gagged.

VOICE OVER: “She’s here.”


Her eyes are wide in terror. She shakes her head.

VOICE OVER: “This is how it begins for her and, of course, for you.”

Scene 120 : Interior : a dark room with a small circular podium in the centre.


We see she is standing with her wrists chained over her head, She is still gagged.

VOICE OVER: “What you wanted. When you wanted it. How you wanted it. But how do you get just what you want?”


Scene 130 : Interior : an office desk and comfortable arm chair.



We see the narrator seated in the armchair.




I read it through to the end. I expected that there would need to be changes but it looked as though she had done a good job to start with. “This looks fine,” I said.

“Great,” she replied without enthusiasm. “Does it get to win an award?”

I let the irony pass. “I could get you a drink, if you like. I’ve got some vodka in my bag.”

She thought about it for a moment and then said, “Why not?”

I turned around and bent down to get the bottle out.

You should never turn your back on a writer. You never know what will happen to the plot.

What is it with girls, me, and drink, I wonder? I mean Amanda brained me with a vodka bottle and it was while I was finding a drink for Rachel that she hit me too.

Not with a bottle, admittedly. This time it was the edge of her computer keyboard. It slammed into the back of my head with a very painful impact. I toppled forward over the bag and then fell to the floor. I didn’t quite lose consciousness, which was a shame as Rachel was shouting “Bastard!” and kicking seven kinds of excrement out of me. However, I was sufficiently disorientated not to put up any sort of struggle as she pulled the lead from the computer keyboard around my wrists and the power cable around my ankles.

That was bad enough. Then she jammed the computer’s mouse into my mouth and wound the cable round my head a few times to keep it there.

She’d obviously thought about this a lot, while she’d been writing my script she’d obviously been working on one for herself.

She gave me another kick, this time in the groin. Luckily, with my ankles tied together and the fact that I was coming to enough to try to dodge, she didn’t really manage to land it. Even so the heel of her shoe scraped painfully across my thigh. If my mouth hadn’t been stuffed I’d have given out a cry that should have been enough to bring the whole lot of the guards in. Except, I remembered, they were quite used to gag-muffled cries of discomfort around here, Just to be sure she knotted the cord from the mouse to the one around my wrists and my ankles. That bent me up and I thought she was about to land another kick when she thought better of it and headed out of the cell, locking the door behind her.

Not even a good-bye, I thought as I tried to free myself from the cables while avoiding choking on the block of plastic wedged in my mouth.

Of course it had to be Harry that found me. “I thought you’d given up on this,” he smirked from the cell door. “You’re obviously not safe left alone with a woman – fall too easily for their charms. Why don’t you hang on there for a minute and I’ll see if I can find your lady friend.” Ignoring my grunts of frustration and complaint, he shut the door.

In fairness to the guy he must have mentioned my condition to someone because the Doc came in a few moments later. She set to, untying the cable around my mouth first of all and pulling the mouse carefully out. “Ouch,” she said, “that must have hurt. She might have broken some teeth but I think you’ve been lucky.”

She managed to untie the cable from around my wrists and I sat up, untying my own ankles. “Thanks,” I said.

“Don’t mention it,” she replied, with a grin. “It makes a change untying someone.”

“Shouldn’t there be alarms going off?” I asked. “You know, wailing sirens, flashing lights, that sort of thing.”

Harry reappeared at the door. “No need,” he said, “she won’t be far away. I just needed to get my tracer. Do you want to come find her?”

“Tracer?” I asked.

“Uh, huh,” said Harry, pulling a small box from his pocket. It looked like a voltage meter. “Those collars they wear aren’t just there to hang their slave number tags on,” he said. “There’s a little chip inside and with this little box we can walk right up to her. She won’t have got her collar off unless she’s found a cutting torch lying around somewhere. Come on. If you can walk that is.”

The Doctor and I followed him out of the cell and down the corridor leading to Despatch. He showed me the box, the needle was pointing off to one side, through the door of a janitor’s cupboard. Harry put one finger to his lips asking for quiet. He took out his wallet and pulled out what looked like plain sheet of paper about the size of a bank note. He picked away at one corner with a finger nail until a plastic backing sheet came loose. He pulled that clear and slipped the paper under the bottom of the door.

A few seconds later there was “Phoosh” noise, smoke started to appear under the door which moments later burst open. A coughing and spluttering Rachel emerged from a cloud of acrid looking orange smoke. She ran into Harry’s arms. “Stupid bitch,” he said as he hit her with the edge of his hand on the side of the neck, knocking her unconscious. He let her slide limply to the floor before he turned her over and pulled a cable tie tightly around her wrists. He turned to me. “Had you two finished, or was there something else you needed to discuss?” he asked.

“No we’d finished,” I said. “She can go back in her cell. In fact,” I wasn’t feeling too pleased with her, ”you can tell the team she’s back on the ‘available’ list until further notice.”

“Oh good,” said Harry. “It’s always nice when someone that’s been off-limits becomes available. Do you want to book a slot?”

“Not right now,” I said. “I’m afraid I’ve got a headache.”

Harry laughed, pulling the slowly recovering Rachel to her feet. “Fair enough. She probably has too, but I don’t think it will make much difference to the guards or anyone else that wants to play.” He dragged her off towards the cells. I had some sympathy for her. Then I went to move and felt the pain where she’d kicked me. The sympathy wore off quickly.

Chapter 21: Bar Talk

It was the following day. Harry and I were sat in a small bar in a hotel overlooking the river. He’d been up in town for a meeting with Freddie. I felt that at least I owed him a drink for helping sort out Rachel. He’d been good enough not to make too much of a joke of it around the place, too. He’d been sympathetic about what happened and gave me a bit of a lecture on not turning my back on work in progress. Nothing I didn’t deserve. I wasn’t going to let it happen again.

It was mid afternoon and we were almost the only ones in the room. A group of three girls sat on stools at the bar, chatting and laughing. We took our beers off to a quiet corner. I could see Harry was giving each of the girls an appraising look.

“See anything you like?” I said.

Harry took a pull on his bottle of beer and spoke under his breath. “Hmm, maybe $120,000. The one on the left possibly a bit more than $40k, not sure. Sparky, ought to train well. Easy pick up too, careless with her stuff – see how she’s just left her handbag on the floor. It’s a sure sign - no idea about her surroundings - you’d bag her before she knew anything was happening. Other two might go down well with the eastern Europeans, shape’s all right, weight’s all right. Nothing special though – can’t see them fetching the sort of margins we’re looking for now.”

“Silly of me, I guess,” I said. “I wasn’t really talking shop.”

Harry chuckled, putting his beer down on the table. “Oh, sorry.”

“I sort of meant, what do you do for fun?”

He stared down at the beer bottle. I wondered if I had touched a raw nerve. “Larry, you’re right,” he said. “I guess, doing this, you stop seeing women as fun and start seeing them just as dollars and shipping weight. Quite a lot of the time it’s as if they’re not wearing clothes even. You can watch their naked bodies as they walk by – you’ve seen so many of them stripped, you know what they’ll be like. The only surprise now when you get them naked is whether they’ve had themselves tattooed. I wish they wouldn’t do that though, it’s much harder to shift the ones with marks – especially some of the designs. We had one we picked up a while back, had so little spare flesh we could barely find space to put a bar code on her.”

I nodded.

Harry went on. “It’s odd really. You stop thinking of them as people at all. Take the one in the middle – she’s wearing an engagement ring. So I’m thinking, watch out for the fiancé turning up at an inconvenient moment, maybe he’s a possible patsy for her disappearance. That portfolio case propped up against her stool – looks like she might be a bit arty – could mean she gets to galleries; great snatch venues, plenty of quiet corners. Slim build, blonde hair – maybe your Caribbean pal would like her; looks like she’d be good between the shafts of a pony cart.” She looked up, noticed that Harry was looking at her and smiled. Harry stared blankly, ignoring her look, and went on talking. “Whereas actually she’s this really nice, normal, girl who does a perfectly good job in an ad agency somewhere and has slipped out for a bit of fun with her girl friends on a Thursday afternoon before she goes home to fuck the arse off her fiancé tonight. Somehow you don’t think about their real lives, except like it helps plan the snatch.” Harry looked up as a waitress made her way over from the bar. “Uh-oh,” he said, with a grin, “Here comes $50k.”

The waitress came over to our table, picked up my empty bottle and put it on her tray. “You boys all right?” she asked. We nodded. “Do you want another beer?” she asked me. I said, “Sure.” Harry shook his head. Two other guys on the far corner of the bar were calling out to the three girls. The girls were ignoring them. Pointedly. “Jeez,” our waitress said, “you’d think this was some sort of slave market the way some men carry on. They treat them like they’re pieces of meat.”

“Shocking,” said Harry. One of the girls span round in response to some remark or other and raised a finger to the two men. One of them started to get to his feet. The waitress went over to try to calm things down. She was standing with her back to us, hands on hips as she argued with the men. “Nice arse,” said Harry, quietly. “She’d be good for some of the spankers we’ve got on the books. Strapped down, with that up in the air, nicely framed with garter belt and stockings, you could see the price going up.” She was pointing at the door. The two men got to their feet and made a few abusive remarks before up-ending a beer bottle and storming out. The waitress got a cloth and started cleaning up. “There,” said Harry, “domestic skills too. The price is going up all the time.”

“We weren’t talking shop,” I chided.

“Eh? Oh, yeah.” Harry was obviously having trouble switching off. He took another pull at the beer.

“I mean do you ever date any of the team? Or is that frowned on? Obviously it’s going to be difficult with a girl from outside the business but there’s a few around Clegg’s operation that look like they might be fun.”

“Well,” said Harry, “I try not to get involved with any of my lot; that can really make life difficult and it’s a sure recipe for fowl-ups in my book. There’s been a few from Rick’s team that I’ve hooked up with. The trouble is when you see them coming out of the shower and think, ‘that’d look nice on the platform’ or when you wake up in the morning next to them and its ‘oh fuck, she’s loose, where are the ropes?’. I guess this job just screwed me up. How about you?”

“It’s funny,” I said, “you’d think with women available any time you want, it’d be like some sort of dreamland. Doesn’t seem to work like that, though. Hang on.” I noticed the waitress coming back.

“Sorry about that, gents,” she said. “Was it still just the one beer?”

Harry said, “No I’ll have one as well now, thanks. Do you get a lot of trouble in here? Doesn’t look like the sort of place that you would.”

“No,” she said, “not usually. And usually I’m happy to let them get on with it. The girls can give as good as they get and as long as they aren’t actually fighting and it doesn’t disturb the other customers, I don’t mind. It was just that short arsed guy – the one with the ginger hair – called me a thick bitch that would be better with a bottle jammed up my fanny*.”

“Not nice,” I said.

“No,” she said. “I’m not thick – I’ve got a history doctorate: ‘The Growth of Brewing and Wine Trades in Late 13th Century England’. Only thing is there’s more need for bar staff than there is for historians.” Harry laughed. “I’ll get your beers.”

“Bright girl,” I said as she left.

“Yeah,” said Harry, “always a problem. Mostly they just end up gagged most of the time. Still worth remembering if any of your accounts comes looking for a medievalist with a great arse.” He grinned and downed the last of his beer. “Still,” he said, “it might be fun to see if I could park something other than a bottle in her fanny*.”

“OK,” I said, “here’s a challenge for you. Get a date, take her out, take her home. Screw any part of her you like but see if you can get through to tomorrow without actually wrapping her in rope or tape and dumping her in a crate somewhere.”

“Yeah, maybe,” he said as he watched her bringing us our beers.

She gave him a smile and a warm, “There you go,” as she put them down and left us.

“What about the other three? $120k of prime cuts, just asking to be put on Rick’s conveyor. Look at the mouth on that one at the other end, wide as anything, very nice lips. Lot of buyers go for a big mouth, Larry. Skinny wrists though - need to be careful with that, might slip out of handcuffs.”

“Harry, take your mind off the job for one night. Go date the waitress. For one evening, talk to someone outside of our world, someone you aren’t planning to snatch.”

Harry smiled sheepishly. “I guess I do get a bit caught up in it all,” he said. “You might be right. I’ll maybe see you tomorrow.” He got to his feet and headed off towards the bar. I downed the last of my beer and started to leave. I waved at Harry as I went by him. “So what do historians do when they finish serving beer?” I heard him saying to the waitress as I left.

I was heading north to find out how Rachel was getting on and to see Rick.

* American readers please note: “Fanny” is a British slang word for cunt, not arse; what you call a “fanny pack” we call a “bum bag”. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel that Harry didn’t know his way around a woman.

End of part 3