Market Forces
Part 8
by Freddie Clegg

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

Chapter 53: The Price of Friendship

I gave Freddie an update on Rachel’s progress. He seemed happy. I was wondering whether he was really worried about the outcome or whether he was just keen to see me getting fully involved. Whichever was the case, the threat of violent intervention appeared to have receded.

Rachel was still completing the programme. I’d called Sarah into my office. She appeared, smartly dressed as always, her clearly visible collar the only real indication of her slave status, exactly on time. “Good morning, Mr Ross,” she said brightly. “It’s so nice to be back here. How can I help?”

I told her that I wanted to talk to her about her experiences with Brad and Lauren to help build up my picture of the ways that our customers used their purchases. I could see she was uncomfortable with the idea of re-visiting the past few weeks but I wasn’t really interested in her concerns and I brushed them aside. “I’m sorry, Sarah, I’m sure you didn’t enjoy it but that’s hardly the point is it? I know you’ve enjoyed some privileged treatment around here but do I really need to remind you about your role?”

“But Larry,” she began.

“I think we’ll keep this on a formal basis, #06.085,” I said using her slave number. You could see that she wasn’t used to it. It brought her up short.

“I’m sorry, er, Sir,” she said, recognising that she had stepped out of line. “Of course, I’ll answer any questions that you have.”

“Good, that’s better, Sarah,” I responded. She smiled. “Carry on in that way and we’ll get along just fine.”

“Of course, Sir,” she said.

I picked up my note book. This would have been easier with Rachel to take notes and write things up but I could manage. She was well on in her programme but I wasn’t going to use her for things like this just yet. “So,” I said, “tell me about your duties at the Castle.”

“Umm, well, I didn’t really have anything much to do for the Emir, you know. He left on some business trip and I was supposed to be taking care of his daughter. Well, she took that to mean I was to be her personal slave. Most of the time I was running around for her finding meals or drinks or getting her things when she was down by the pool. Fetching and carrying really. I mean she shouted at me a lot and she locked me in the chastity belt when she found me with the guards by the pool but apart from that, she was alright I suppose.”

“Beatings or other punishments?”

“Well no, not really. I mean I try to do a good job so perhaps she didn’t have cause to. She did slap my face once when she thought I hadn’t been quick enough to bring something but apart from that, until she locked me in the pillory, she hadn’t beaten me at all. It was all a bit sudden. I didn’t expect it; she just seemed to suddenly decide I’d crossed some invisible line. Thinking about it maybe she had her eyes on one of the guards for herself.”

I thought about what Sarah was saying. Lauren was obviously inexperienced. Keeping slaves needed skills like any other form of management. I knew from my own background that if you wanted staff to change it was best to pick up undesirable behaviour early on. 'But then who sends you to slave keeping school?' I thought. It was an interesting thought. I made a note of it. Maybe there was an opportunity related to the expansion in markets with new slave keepers emerging. How else would they learn about security, appropriate punishment, care and feeding? It wasn’t intuitive, after all.

Sarah carried on talking about her experiences serving Lauren. It sounded pretty much as though Lauren had just wanted a housemaid, although amusingly Sarah was absolutely banned from cleaning up Lauren’s room. Lauren had been very concerned that her father shouldn’t get the wrong idea, she wanted it to look like a tip and so it was left.

I quizzed her some more. No, the guards hadn’t raped her; Brad was very tight on discipline and wouldn’t allow it, although a couple of the guards had asked him if they could. No, Lauren hadn’t tried to use her sexually either, hadn’t made any mention of it.

I asked her about her living arrangements. It had been fairly comfortable because there hadn’t been any other slaves in the castle at the time, she’d had a room to herself, locked in at night, of course, and the way things were set up now there would have been three others in the room and they’d have been locked to their beds but they hadn’t bothered with that because she was on her own. The daily routine started at 6 o’clock with cleaning and getting the house ready. Lauren usually called her at about 9 when she woke up and she’d have to serve breakfast in her room. After that, it was whatever Lauren wanted, blended in with a routine of house cleaning and odd bits of secretarial work whenever Brad phoned in. It wasn’t arduous. The main problem was the boredom.

We spent an hour or so talking. I thought I’d got some useful ideas out of it. It was clear that new slave keepers and the expansion of the market into slaves for women was going to need different training arrangements. I sent Sarah back to Harry and set about drafting a note to Rick and Freddie on my thoughts. That took me up to lunch time.

Rick caught Harry, Tricia and myself in the canteen. We’d just finished lunch. He dropped his own tray alongside us. “Snatched any good women lately?” he asked.

Harry just looked up from his coffee.

“I’ve got an answer to that memo of yours – about the Cindy collection.”

“Good,” said Harry. “How does it look?”

“OK, I think. We found her all right, although your details were a bit misleading.”

“How come,” said Harry, warily.

“Well we’ve got a Cindy Bailey. Works for a motor dealer. Used to work in their Rugby branch.”

“That sounds right,” Harry said.

“We thought so. Only thing is your note said you thought she’d be in Coventry now. She’s actually in Solihull.”

“Fair enough, it’s not that far away. She could have moved again.”

Rick shook his head. “Nope. Been there all the time since they closed the Rugby branch. And its not a BMW dealer, either, it’s Mercedes. Your note sent us on a bit of a wild goose chase.”

Harry grunted.

“Anyway, do you want to run through the details?”

“Yeah sure,” said Harry, “I’d finished lunch anyway.”

“Fine,” said Rick pulling a manila file out from under his tray. “I thought you would. He opened the file. “Let’s see. Cindy Bailey, 25 years old, red head, neat body. Looks quite like your Sarah, thinking about it.”

“Yeah,” said Harry, “I know. In fact that’s the idea.”

Rick went on, reading from the file. “Lives on her own, small flat, edge of Solihull. Split up from a bloke about a month back. Sounds like it was a pretty bruising relationship. Works for Mercedes in Solihull as one of their ‘sales negotiators’. Quite good at it by all reckoning.”

“I thought Sarah said she had more of a PA/admin role,” I said chipping in.

“That’s right,” said Rick. “She did. That’s what she started as when she moved up from Rugby. Changed over to this about six months later. Three months after that she bought the flat. Makes her targets every month. One of their best performers if I believe my sources.”

“They seem to be more reliable than mine,” said Harry with an acidic tone.

“That’s what you pay research for,” Rick chirped. “There’s pictures in here including a couple that we sneaked of her sunbathing on the back of a truck behind the garage. Certainly a saleable body if you ask me. Takes a lot of trouble with her looks. Spends on the clothes, make up, jewellery. May even have had a bit of a perk-em-up job done on the front lady bumps. They shouldn’t point up at the sky like that when she’s laying on her back, I think.”

Harry winced at Rick’s use of language. “OK. What’s the collection proposal?”

“The flat’s a possibility but it’s not great. It’s on the second floor,” Harry grimaced, “but there’s access at the rear through a garden and out to an alley way. Couldn’t get a van down there though and it’s maybe 80 yards to the road running down behind seven other properties. You’d get in that way all right but you’d probably have to bring her out through the front. Social venues are a bit unpredictable after dumping her bloke. My favourite is to set up something around work maybe. She’s out and about a lot of the time. Seems to manage her own diary. They don’t keep very close tabs on her. You could maybe show some interest in a motor, take it for a spin with her, use your usual charm, just don’t take her back.”

“That could work,” said Harry. “Are there details on the garage in the file?”

“Yeah, sure,” said Rick, passing him the file. “Here you go.”

I really didn’t have time to get involved in the Cindy Bailey collection, after spending effort with the other pick-ups for the Emir. They are fun to go on but, it’s not really my job and besides I needed to finish mapping out the account management programme for Freddie. It looked like I was going to need a team of two or three to cover the Kushtian side of things, two more for the UK and one for our north American accounts. That would probably grow and there was Europe to think about too. It was hard to be precise. I thought that it would be better to establish the criteria for appointing account managers and then run with that, building up the numbers as the opportunities allowed. I could see suggesting getting a big team on board from day one, even if I’d thought Freddie would go for it, which I didn’t.

I was still beavering away at my ideas a couple of evenings later when Tricia walked in closely followed by Harry and a bound Sarah. Harry sat Sarah down and tossed his knapsack onto the desk alongside of her. Tricia untied Sarah’s wrists.

“Easy job,” said Tricia. “Easy job.”

“Yes,” said Harry, “you did that well. You’re certainly coming on. That’s got our little red-headed girl in the bag, so we can keep the Emir happy.”

“Oh right,” I said, “this was the Cindy Collection was it?” Sarah was busying herself tidying away the contents of Harry’s knapsack into the cupboard in his office. She said nothing.

“Yepp,” said Harry. “They’re just getting her out of the back of her car down in the loading bay.”

“It went all right then?”

“Sure it did, thanks to your girl here and some help from Sarah.”

Tricia chipped in. “It was pretty straight forward really. Harry and I posed as a couple of potential buyers. Looking for a fleet deal for a new business we’re establishing, maybe half a dozen sales exec cars plus four higher spec models for board members. Cindy was hot to trot for an order like that. Like we expected, she didn’t even stop to tell her boss where she was going. Anyway she pulled out all the stops. Took us for a test drive in a S600L All very nice.”

“Then we just had to get her bagged,” said Harry. “We asked her to stop at our hotel. We said we were renting a couple or rooms as a base until we got the offices set up. She didn’t really want to come up to our room but we said….”

“There was an old friend that wanted to meet her. Didn’t she know a girl called Sarah in her last job? She was now working for us and would hate to miss seeing her. Well Cindy’s really keen to see her old friend, says how they lost touch what with the problems with her ex and all and that she’d meant to get back in touch with her again but she’d never got around to it and it would be great to see her again.“

“So we all walk up to the room and sure enough Sarah’s in there, and Cindy says ‘Hi!’ and that moment is all we need.”

“By the time she realises anything is wrong, Harry’s in behind her with a chloro pad and she’s stretched out on the floor of the room. I get her taped up and quiet with a nice big wad of cloth in her mouth. Used some of the new lip glue to keep her mouth shut like we had with Sarah. Oh shit – I forgot to tell the guys on the loading bay we’d used chloro. She’ll vomit all over them as soon as they loosen off her lips and take that gag out.” She looked at her watch. “Oh well, probably too late now. Anyway, we wait until dark, slip her out the back way and into the back of the S600L. She and Sarah ride in the back strapped in and sitting up nice as you please. Cindy’s still out, Sarah’s trussed up, both of them with their lips glued shut - from outside they look normal as anything. We motor quietly back here.”

What’s all this about lip glue? Is this something new?

“Yes,” said Tricia. “It’s quite useful stuff. It’s a high-strength skin glue. Works pretty well instantaneously but you can loosen it off with the right solvent. You can put it in all sorts of stuff. Like a lip-stick, for example. Can’t you Sarah?”

“Mmmm,” said Sarah in response and I realised that her lip glue gag was still in place.

“You should have seen the look on her face when she realised what had happened! We gave her the lipstick as we were going out and suggested she try it. A couple of strokes, she purses her lips in the mirror and – whap – they’re stuck together. There was quite a lot of mmphing, you can imagine but there was no way we were taking her out on a job without some security in place and that proved ideal. We walked her into the hotel with no problems. Got her set up behind the desk with her ankles roped and tied to the chair. From the front it looked like she was just sitting at the desk. She couldn’t say anything with her lips glued shut. We left a baby sitter with her to make sure she behaved until we got back with Cindy the sales lady. I reckon we’ll use the stuff again.”

“How was Sarah? She must have found it hard, helping you pick her friend up?”

“That was the deal,” said Harry, grimly. “She was to supposed to help and in return she didn’t get sold to the Emir. A deal is a deal in my book. If she hadn’t wanted to be involved she shouldn’t have said anything in the first place.”

“And,” said Tricia, “we’ve got a nice new limo for the business. Plus there was a whole pile of Cindy’s work files and her laptop in the boot. Might be some interesting stuff there. Harry, I’d like to get Research to check it out. If there’s any follow ups on this then perhaps it’s a project I could take a lead on.”

“Maybe,” said Harry. “I’ll think about it.”

Chapter 54: The Kushtians of Suburbia

There were three clear bangs on the door of the wardrobe. That meant that Kelly had had enough. I put down the mug of tea that I’d made for myself and walked back across the room. I pulled open the wardrobe. Even with the blindfold on she knew I was there. She gave a whimpering moan and shrugged her body against the ropes that pinned her arms to her sides.

I lifted her out of the wardrobe, carried her across my shoulder to the far side of the room and dumped her down on the bed.

Her blouse was soaked in sweat from the effort she had put into trying to free herself. That was all she had to show for her trouble. I’d learned a bit about the erotic uses of bondage from her magazines. I don’t think anyone in Harry’s team ever bothered with a crotch rope for example and the ‘lift and separate’ effect of ropes across the chest and between the tits seemed to have a purely aesthetic purpose that they hadn’t latched on to either. I won’t complain you understand. I’ve always enjoyed the visual arts. I eased away the scarf that gagged her. She coughed and spluttered, using her tongue to work out the pair of sports socks that I’d wadded into her mouth. Still blindfolded she fell back on the bed, breathing deeply.

“You are a bastard, you know,” she said, working her sore and aching mouth and still trying to wriggle free of the ropes that held her body, wrists and ankles.

“I thought that was the attraction,” I said, reaching out to run a finger across where her belly had been exposed as her blouse had pulled loose from the waistband of her skirt by her struggles.

It had been quite a while since we had seen each other. I’d been busy with Rachel and there had been problems with Tricia too. I hadn’t really intended to see Kelly but she’d left me a text on my mobile and then we’d chatted and suddenly it had seemed like a good idea.

“If you’re nice to me I might fix you some dinner,” she said.

“How about if I’m nasty to you?”

“Then I could do something even nicer,” she giggled. I reached across and pulled away the scarf that was blindfolding her. Her long, dark hair fell loosely across the pillow. She smiled up at me. “That was fun,” she said, moving herself slowly into a sitting position, still stiff from the hour or so she’d spent in the wardrobe. She looked at my mug of tea. “Where’s mine?” she asked. “And look at this place; you could have cleared up while I was in there.”

She was right I supposed, but I wasn’t going to admit it. She put up quite a struggle when I told her what I was going to do with her. One of the armchairs had been upended and the coffee table had got kicked over too. The remains of the Chinese take away meal she’d had last night were spread across the floor, a broken plate lay where it had fallen. Luckily the carpet was patterned, the added stains wouldn’t show. “Slaves make their own tea,” I said starting to untie the ropes that were knotted about her, “and if they don’t want a mess they shouldn’t resist their captors. Beside, I wanted to watch the news.” I nodded to the television.

She made a noise that suggested to me she wasn’t entirely convinced by my arguments. I got the last of the ropes off. She flexed her arms and rubbed at her wrists. “Did you want some more tea?” she said.

“Sure,” I replied. I passed her my mug. She picked her way across the room towards the kitchen, avoiding treading in the debris in her stockinged feet.

“Oh, there’s a magazine there I thought you’d find interesting,” she called from the kitchen. “On the table. Or at least it was before you turned up.”

I pulled a magazine out from under the coffee table. “National Geographic?” I called back to her. “Not usually my sort of reading. Not yours either if my memory serves me right.” I thought back to the fetish magazines I’d discovered in her bedroom.

“No, look at the cover story,” she called. “Right up your street if the way you play is anything to go by. I’ll be there in a moment. The kettle is just boiling.”

I looked at the yellow cover, two almond eyes set in light brown skin stared out at me from above an elaborately embroidered yashmak. “Veiled & In Chains,” the headline read. “The Women Of The Kushtian Uplands.”

“See what I mean?” Kelly emerged form the kitchen clutching two mugs of tea.

“Extraordinary,” I said, taking a mug from her and thumbing through the article. “I wouldn’t have believed it.” That at least was true enough; I wouldn’t have believed it before I’d met the Kalinin. I think she thought I meant before reading the article.

Kelly plonked down on the couch beside me. “Look at that poor girl,” she said pointing to a photograph of a veiled women carrying a water pitcher on her head, ornamental chains running from her wrists to an elaborate collar.

“Poor girl?” I said. “It looks like just the sort of thing you’d like; slave of a rugged tribesman, kept in chains and subject to his every whim, if I believe this article.”

“It would depend on the rugged tribesman,” she said, placing her hand on the top of my thigh in a way that indicated that I would probably qualify. She pulled a corner of the bed sheet up over her mouth and nose. “How do you think I’d look in a veil,” she said flirtatiously.

“Just fine,” I said.

“Pig!” she exclaimed, throwing down the sheet. “That’s one of those questions you’re not supposed to answer honestly.”

I laughed and took a swig of my tea.

She was as good as her promise and cooked some food. While she was busy I read the article. It had been written by Dr Karen Armstrong, an American anthropologist, who had smuggled herself disguised as a boy across the border from the north with a trading caravan. She had taken some extraordinary photographs of the women of the northern tribesmen and some of the tribesmen themselves. From the article it sounded like the tribesmen had a very similar society to that in Kolin but without the sophistication of city life. The author seemed to think that the growth of urban culture in Kolin would eventually dilute the primitive traditional ways of the tribes. She also thought the change from the soviet command economy to a western market economy and the introduction of democracy would also lead to emancipation for the hill tribeswomen. From what I’d seen of life in Kolin I wasn’t so sure.

We didn’t have any shackles so I had Kelly serve dinner in handcuffs and with the sheet draped across her in a Kushtian fashion. She wasn’t too pleased when I made her kneel beside me holding the tray while I ate from it, and it didn’t get any better when I pushed her ball gag in behind her veil to silence her protests.

She came around in the end and was showing every sign of becoming a suitably compliant Kushtian wife by the end of the evening. She certainly picked up the idea that Kushtian women were expected to serve their men as sexual playthings, happily accommodating me in a range of entertaining positions before allowing me to remove her gag so that she could use her mouth as well. She wasn’t as accomplished a veil wearer as the girls I met in Kolin but in every other respect I thought she did quite a good job.

Just as I was about to leave I picked up Kelly’s copy on National Geographic. I turned the pages, leafing through the pictures of the veiled, chained women. Kelly came over beside me. “The funny thing is,” she said, “they all look really content. Look at their eyes, bright and smiling even if their mouths are hidden. Perhaps it’s not such a bad life for real.”

“Is that what your friends at the munch would think?” I asked.

“Gosh, no,” she said. “They’d think I was mad. Well, most of them, would. Probably.”

I wondered. It might be interesting to find out. I wondered what the Kushtians thought about it too.

Chapter 55: Sarah & Cindy

Cindy didn’t spend too long in prep. The Emir wanted his new acquisitions “fresh” as he called it. That was fine by us. I’d gone down to the customer lounge to join Rick for the handover of the remaining eight of the Emir’s household slaves, four house maids, three for ‘entertaining’ clients and his new PA. We’d got together pretty much everything he’d wanted and, of course Cindy as well. Tricia had suggested using Brian’s daughters, Beth and Ella, as two of the ‘entertainers’, I didn’t want to do that, I thought that output from the sexualisation programme should be more use than just general purpose bounce fodder but Tricia said we ought to be getting some benefit from the family. We’d had an argument about it. We were doing a lot of that lately. In the end my point of view was the one we went with. It wasn’t really a marketing decision but Freddie didn’t want to argue about it.

The Emir was due anytime so Rick had the guards bring the girls in and line them up. Brad had been clear that he’d want to check them out before he took delivery, so we’d had the girls stripped. All nine of them were standing in a line, wrists and ankles shackled, collared as always. They wore ball gags hanging loosely around their necks waiting to be put in place when needed. There was the usual mix of looks of sullen resentment, terrified acceptance and cowed compliance on the girl’s faces as Rick checked them off against the list he had on his clip board.

Sarah appeared, smiling and looking as efficient as ever, in a tight black skirt and an equally tight white blouse. She handed an envelope to Rick. “Harry asked me to give you this,” she said. She suddenly saw Cindy at the far end of the line. At least Sarah had the grace to look embarrassed, I thought. Cindy of course had had enough prep to know that she shouldn’t react. Even so, I could imagine that she was angered by the sight of Sarah.

Rick was puzzling over Harry’s letter. “Why does he leave these things to the last minute?” he was asking himself. “It always more difficult if you don’t have time to sort things out properly.”

“Can I help?” offered Sarah. Rick was scribbling something on his clipboard and fiddling with a pile of numbered tags in his hand.

“Err, oh, err, yes. Thank you Sarah,” he responded. “If you could just clip these asset transfer tags on each of the girls listed on the sheet and check them off. Just make sure the tags and the numbers on the sheet agree with the numbers on their collars, can you?”

“Of course,” said Sarah taking the board and tags from him.

Rick went back to reading Harry’s note. Sarah worked her way down the line checking each girl’s number in turn and fastening a tag to her collar. She got to the end and found herself facing Cindy. The two of them exchanged looks. Cindy’s failed to convey the contempt she felt for her former friend, Sarah’s couldn’t show her sorrow and regret. Sarah checked the collar and the tag. She came back over to Rick.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but the last one doesn’t tally. Its got all of Cindy’s details here but her number has been scribbled out and another written in. Should I just put the tag on her or should we find the girl with this number, #06.085?” Sarah’s look suddenly changed. Her hand flew up to her own collar. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “That’s my number! That can’t be right.”

“Ah!” said Rick. “Now I understand. Sorry, Silly of me. Yes. That’s right. If you could just step over there Sarah and clip that tag on. Oh, and just pop your clothes off if you could there’s a good girl.”

“No, wait,” said Sarah, “I’m sure this is wrong. I mean, the whole idea behind this was to … And then I helped, well, with, her,” She nodded towards Cindy, “ so that, and …..”

“Well, Sarah you may be right but I can’t do anything about it right now. We’ll have to swap you and Cindy over for the moment and we’ll sort it out later, I’m sure. I’ll see what I can do but I have to follow the procedure. You know what a stickler for this sort of thing Freddie is.”

Sarah looked uncomfortable but could see no choice but to comply.

Rick turned to one of the guards. “Can you take the one on the end back down to the cells for the time being,” he said pointing to Cindy. “Now, come on Sarah, do as I asked. Get your clothes off and get in line with the others and then we can get the shipment tallied and I can try to sort things out.” Sarah watched as a puzzled Cindy was hustled away. Rick turned to the rest of the girls. “Kneel down, please,” he said. “Ball gags in place now. Thank you.”

I watched as Sarah stripped off, taking off the high necked white blouse and the pencil slim black skirt that she so often wore around the office. She looked around for somewhere to put her clothes and draped her skirt carefully over the back of a chair, adding her blouse and then her bra, panties and stockings. She put her shoes neatly beside the chair and then stood, sheepishly waiting while Rick continued to check off details on his clip board.

Rick looked up and saw the now naked Sarah. “Ah, good,” he said, “that’s a help.” Sarah smiled. “If you could just go over there on the end. Oh, yes, sorry I hadn’t given you one of these.” He passed her a ball gag and turned to one of the guards. “Get some shackles on this one, could you. Thanks.” He pointed to an increasingly confused and concerned looking Sarah. The guard fastened shackles around her wrists and ankles and clipped the asset transfer tag to her collar. He led her over to the line and got her kneeling like the others. I heard voices in the corridor outside.

“Straighten up, ladies,” Rick called. “Hands on the back of your heads.” The girls responded, Sarah last of all. “Come on all of you, make the best of yourselves, your new owner is going to be here in a moment and you won’t want him to see you like this. That’ll be no way to start.” The girls visibly stiffened their posture, breasts were thrust forward and backs were arched. Even at this early stage they’d worked out that displaying themselves to their best advantage was likely to make their lives easier. Even Sarah responded.

The Emir came into the room with Harry. “Here we are,” said Harry to the Emir. “Just as we’ve promised. You know Larry, of course.” He gave me a wave of greeting. “Have you met Rick before? Runs the Preparation and Orientation activities here.”

“No,” said the Emir. “Good to meet you. Looks like you’ve done a good job at first sight. I’ll need to look them over, of course.”

“Naturally,” said Rick. “Take your time. They’re all yours.”

“That’s the idea,” said Brad, laughing. “Assuming the cheque clears.” The two of them went up to the first in line, Harry unbuckled the girl’s gag. Brad examined her carefully, checking her body and her mouth as you would a piece of livestock at a market. He worked his way along the line. A guard called Harry from the door. He went across and the two of them muttered an exchange of words. The guard went out and reappeared with Cindy. Clothed in a high necked white blouse and tight black skirt, the resemblance to the way that Sarah had looked was striking. Harry walked her across to Rick and the Emir who had just got to Sarah.

“Sorry to interrupt things,” said Harry. “I thought I ought to introduce my new PA, Cindy, here.” She gave Rick and Brad a smile, all the while ignoring, Sarah’s worried look. “I think she’ll prove a little more reliable than the last one. Do you know she had the nerve to try to deceive me? Girl like that has to be sold on, can’t keep her in an office like mine once she’s shown she’s not 100% reliable.” Sarah looked frightened as she realised the consequences of her deception. She tried to protest through her gag but her whimpered, muffled, remarks did nothing more than to attract a scowl from both Harry and the Emir

“Well, whatever. Glad you decided to let me have this one after all,” Brad said to Harry. “Now let’s just see that she’s OK.” He ran his hands across her buttocks, down the outside of her thighs and back up the inside. “She’s kept in trim, hasn’t she?” He asked rhetorically. He moved his hands to her breasts. “You know these are nice,” he said. “Liked them the first time I saw them in your office. Feel good too, all real. You can tell.” Sarah bit back a whimper. “Can I?” he gestured to Sarah’s mouth.

“Cindy, take this one’s gag off, will you. Beat her if she makes a sound.” Harry instructed his new PA.

“Of course, Sir,” Cindy said compliantly, unbuckling the gag and pulling the ball from Sarah’s mouth as the Emir prodded and probed at her body. Sarah wisely kept silent.

“Open your mouth, girl.” Brad pulled back her lips and peered inside. “Yeah that looks all right. I had a slave that cost me a fortune in dental bills once but she looks all right. Not too much metal work in there and the teeth look OK. Fine.” He pushed her mouth closed and then turned her head this way and that peering at her eyes, ears and skin. “OK, she’ll do. A few more piercings in her ears and maybe some other places but I can get that done all right.”

“Oh, please, wait,” Sarah blurted out. Cindy went to pick up a riding crop from the nearby chair.

“That’s all right, Cindy,” said Harry. “What is it, err” he reached out for her tag, “#06.085?”

“Oh, thank, you, I’m sure there’s some confusion Ha…, err, Sir. I’m sure you’ve misunderstood what I said about Cindy and … Well, it’s just that I’m not supposed to be part of this shipment, I only came down to help out with the tags and there was some mistake and now I’m…”

Harry cut her off. “Is this right Rick?” he said. “Not like you to make a mistake.” Rick shrugged. “I know how to sort this out,” Harry said. “Let’s make sure that Rick’s shipment list tallies with mine. If that’s the case then we’re all right.” He turned to Cindy. “Could you just check our list against Rick’s, Cindy? Just see if the two sets of item numbers are the same.”

Cindy sashayed across the room to the table where Rick’s clipboard lay on the desk. I watched her arse trying to fight against the skirt that covered it. It was an entertaining few moments. She spent a couple of minutes ticking off numbers on the two lists and turned back to the two groups. “The two lists tally, exactly, Sir,” she said, putting Rick’s clipboard down and returning to the group.

“I thought so,” said Harry. “We’ve heard enough from this one. See to it, will you Cindy.”

Sarah watched in numbed astonishment as Cindy took her ball gag and jammed it back into her mouth before she could utter another protest. For good measure Cindy clipped Sarah’s wrist cuffs to the back of her collar. I heard the click of the ratchet on her cuffs as Cindy pushed the cuffs closed more tightly. “I hope that’s not too tight for you,” she said with a voice devoid of concern.

“Excellent,” said Brad. “I’m glad that’s sorted out. All to the good. My daughter’s really looking forward to having this one around the house again,” Sarah looked more concerned than ever, “and Lauren’s going to need sweetening up a bit when she finds out she’s off to Kushtia in a month. I’ll sign off on these and you can ship them. OK?”

“Sure,” said Rick waving to a Guard. He picked up his clipboard. “Loading Bay 5,” he said. “They can go down now.”

The guard set to linking each girl’s wrist shackles to the collar of the next girl in line. Sarah was at the front. He clipped a leash to her collar and jerked her forward, “Right, keep up you lot. Let’s move!”

The line of slaves shuffled across the room following the guard and Sarah. As she passed Cindy, Harry’s new PA hissed quietly to her, “As if I’d be living in Coventry! You could have thought of somewhere more up market!”

Sarah whimpered, the leash tightened, and she was pulled towards the loading bay. As she left the room, her last sight was of Cindy picking up her discarded clothes from the chair and dumping them in a trash can.

Brad smiled and shook hands all round. “Good job,” he said, “good job. Nice to see you guys do what you say.” He took me to one side. “Did you see the piece in National Geographic?”

I nodded. “Yes, I guess it caused some excitement back home?”

“Well, yes and no,” he said surprisingly. “Come on, you’re a marketing man. I know they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity but what do you think we should be doing about it?”

I thought for a moment. “Look,” I said, “I’m no expert on international affairs but I’d have thought that the best course is to ignore it. You can’t pretend it’s not real. Maybe you could try to discredit the author but I don’t think that gets you anywhere. I’d suggest that you just brazen it out if there is any adverse comment. Sort of ‘it’s our way of life, has been for centuries, all part of the rich global variety of cultural heritage’ approach.”

Brad didn’t look convinced. “Maybe,” he said. “Still it’s not my call. I’m waiting to hear from the Foreign Ministry what the line is.”

“Oh, I’d have thought they should have got their act together a bit quicker. You people on the ground need to know how to play it.”

“Tell me about it,” said Brad. “Tell me about it. Still, there’s other stuff to worry about right now. Gotta get back to the Castle. See you. Thanks for your thought on that Nat Geog thing.”

He gave me a wave and left.

I bumped into Elly as I was leaving the room. To say she wasn’t happy would be putting things mildly. “Just help me get the facts right on this,” she said. “You’ve taken Harry’s PA, whose been working on Clegg Enterprises Business for the last three months. Who’s seen our entire operation inside and out. Who’s had probably one of the lowest levels of prep and orientation that any of the product has going through here. And you’ve sold her to that nutter with the country girl camp in Gloucestershire?”

I could sense this wasn’t a time for prevaricating. “It wasn’t my call,” I said, “but as facts go, if you mean, ‘are we shipping Sarah to the Emir?’ the answer is yes.”

“If it wasn’t your call, who’s was it?”

“Well, Head of Sales approves shipment lists. And that’s Freddie these days.”

“You know he hasn’t got time to read all that stuff,” Elly said.

“Not my fault. He could put a new Head of Sales in place. That whole piece of the organisation is broken, Elly. Brian may have been useless and a crook but at least he had time to read things before he signed them. Look, Harry was pretty hacked off with how Sarah held out on him, Cindy looks like a good alternative. Sarah was what the Emir wanted in the first place. It sounded like a good idea to me.”

“Yeah, and you know so much about this business.”

“No, I don’t and that’s why it wasn’t my call and why I haven’t wanted to take on that part of things. I can tell you what to sell and where to sell it and who to sell it to but I don’t have the background for decisions on individual cases. For what it’s worth I can see where you’re coming from. I’m not convinced that the Emir is the right solution but he thinks he’s bought her. If more experienced people than me are getting it wrong, I suggest you take it up with them.”

Elly seemed to calm down. “Sorry Larry,” she said. I made a mental note to remember that; apologies from Elly weren’t common. “I’ll get Rick to delay the shipment and I’ll talk to Freddie about it. You’re right, he needs to find someone he can delegate this stuff to.”

I heard her on the phone not long after. She was talking to the Emir in her most emollient tones. “Well, thank you Brad, it’s so good of you to be so understanding. There’s just a question of the title transfer on that one. …. Yes, I know we said we’d substitute originally …. Yes, well I guess it will be best if we sort things out from our side first. .. You’re happy if we ship the others? Fine. We’ll do that then. I’ll get back to you.” She put down the phone with a look of relief. She turned towards me. “Right, we’ve got a bit of time to sort this out. We’re going to need some ideas and you’re supposed to be good at that. Better start thinking.”

Chapter 56: Rachel’s Recovery

The whole conversation was a bit difficult, I guess you could say. Elly wanted to sort out what we were going to do about Sarah, Cindy, and the Emir’s PA, and she recognised that Freddie wasn’t doing the job that needed to be done looking after sales. I wanted to solve the Rachel and Sukie problems. Harry just sounded as though he was resenting the fact that all this was taking up time he needed to work on Ops matters.

Freddie was sitting at one end of the table peering inscrutably over his hands as Elly expressed her concerns on letting Sarah out of the business. “I don’t have a problem with using these girls on internal work but we’ve got to recognise that when we do they collect a lot of knowledge that might embarrass us later. And it’s not just where they go to next, it’s what happens to them after that, we’ve got no control of who they might be sold on to.”

Freddie looked pensive. “So what do you think we should do?”

Elly was blunt. “Leaving aside the current problem, there’s three alternatives. Either we don’t use them internally. Or we do and if they turn out unsuitable we carry the costs of keeping them in house but not using them. Or we do and if they turn out unsuitable we, to put it bluntly, dispose of them in a way that doesn’t put us at risk.”

“You know I don’t like wasting assets, Elly,” Clegg said. I wasn’t quite sure which meaning of the word ‘wasting’ he was using. “And I’m not keen on letting the costs of keeping them go up. All right, it’s cheaper than paying staff but that’s not the point. Harry, what’s your view?”

“Well,” he said, “I know it’s my girl that triggered this but actually I think Elly’s right. We ought to have a consistent policy.”

“OK and how are our two current problems?”

“They are both in secure accommodation on a no contact regime.” I knew what that meant. It would get pretty boring for the girls in those hoods. “I didn’t want things to get any more complicated.”

“Fine,” said Freddie. “Larry what’s your take?”

“I’m not so sure,” I said warily. “Look, I can’t really have a point of view on what’s secure or what’s not. I just don’t know enough about it. It’s pretty obvious Sarah can’t go back to working for Harry, she’s lost his confidence. Equally she’s been too involved in the business just to be sold on. We need to supply something to the Emir, we’re committed on that and it needs to be Sarah or Cindy. My suggestion would be Cindy.”

“And what do we do with the other one?”

“I think we can find a use for her. We could put her through the same programme that Brian’s family and Rachel have been through. At the end of it she won’t care what it is that she did in the past, she’d be completely absorbed in the pursuit of pleasure. We could use her for what we like then.”

“Which might be?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a while – since we brought in Brian’s family, really - but I hadn’t really finished getting all my ducks in a row yet, so I hadn’t mentioned it. What I’d been thinking was – as we’re starting to see more slave owners appear, some with very little idea of how to look after slaves – I mean imagine I was trying to handle Rachel and Sukie on my own – these new owners, some of them don’t have the first idea of how to do it. They’ve got some romantic idea about having a couple of women on tap but it’s much more complicated than that as we all know. We could help them. Run a sort of training school. ‘Slave Keeping 101’ that sort of thing.”

Freddie was thinking. He didn’t say anything. Elly cut in, “And we’d use Sarah and Brian’s family as the teaching aids?”

“That was my thought,” I said. “Look, this isn’t a fully formed idea by any means. It needs a proper plan and….”

“No,” said Clegg. I felt defeated. “No, it doesn’t need a plan. I think we should try it. We’ve got the resources. Let’s see if it works. It’s the sort of thing we should be doing to help develop the customers – the more we can do for them the more their likely to buy from us. Don’t spend time planning, spend time doing. That is unless anyone’s got a better idea?”

Harry, Rick and Elly all shook their heads. “Sounds fine to me,” said Elly.

“Good,” said Clegg. “That’s decided. Get on with it, Larry. The lads will help out.” Harry and Rick both looked relieved. “Oh, but you might think twice about putting Sarah through the programme. It might be useful to have one ‘training aid’ that wasn’t fully conditioned always to do as she was told.” I nodded. That was the sort of reason why I’d wanted a plan.

Elly wasn’t going to let the issue of who was running sales to slide. “And sales management?” she said.

Clegg sucked in his cheeks. They’d obviously discussed it before and it looked like he’d been hoping the problem would go away. “All right. I can see you think it’s not working like this, Elly.” She gave him one of her most inscrutable looks. The others tried to look as though they were agreeing with both parties. Clegg seemed to make up his mind. “I’ll look at moving one of the account managers up into a coordinating role. We don’t need a sales director, I don’t think.”

“Your right there, but we do need someone to take day to day responsibility for sales management,” said Elly.

“Agreed,” said Clegg. “Leave it with me. I’ll fix it.”

The meeting broke up. I had a separate word with Freddie about Rachel and Sukie. I wanted to hang on to them but I might need some help as things got busier. Freddie agreed to my proposals for Rachel and for Sukie too. He complained a bit about increasing the overheads but, as I said, it was basically only food and drink anyway. Their costs were pretty marginal and the value that we were getting from Rachel’s insights into the sexualisation programme were worth that alone.

The two of them were installed in an office next to mine, Sukie as a sort of admin/marketing gofer and Rachel doing any of the research or writing that I needed.

The first real jobs that I had for the two of them were mapping out the owners training programme and organising the buyer’s hospitality event. The buyers took priority – we already had a date for that.

Rachel was to script the entertainments. Sukie would handle the admin. I spent an hour running through my thoughts with the two of them. In many ways it was just like a hundred events I’d organised before. Just this time the audience and the products were a bit different.

Basically the pitch was to give the buyers a training day that would help them do a better job for their employers. We wanted to let them have some fun but there had to be some work content as well. Between the three of us we worked up the programme. Sukie had some useful thoughts, she’d seen a lot of the American owners and knew the sort of things they wanted in their purchases. We thought it might be interesting to get Elly to do a short talk on contractual issues and we wanted to pull together a short documentary-like video on the collection and preparation process but apart from that the idea was just to give them the opportunity to get some food and drink inside themselves and to enjoy some of the product.

I knew Rachel could write the video script. She’d already developed a rough story-board covering intelligence gathering, a surveillance project, collection, basic orientation and preparation. The brief was to focus in on intelligence and surveillance because it was those phases that most affected our ability to give warranties or provide other reassurances in supply agreements. In the end I think she did a pretty good job, pulling together some existing material that the research teams had collected, some video footage shot on a snatch as a training aid for Harry, some of the CCTV footage from inside the prep centre and some new material shot specially for the video. She even volunteered to do the voice over herself.

The three of us had fallen into a work and life routine that seemed to suit all three of us. Sukie was happy to look after running the apartment, she did most of the cooking and cleaning. Rachel was still spending part of her time reinforcing her sexualisation programme but she and Sukie had developed a very close relationship that was as much emotional as it was physical. Although both the girls were slaves as far as the organisation was concerned, when the three of us were alone together we worked or played as the mood took us or the business required, a delightful combination of labour and lust.

The girls wore their collars, of course, and shackles whenever they were outside the apartment but, apart from that, we lived what looked like a normal existence for three people sharing a flat and their workplace.

Even Tricia started to look as though she was accepting the situation. We’d been chatting one evening and she’d even got as far as apologising.

“You know, I think I might have seemed a bit single minded over some of this stuff,” she said. We’d met up for a drink in the riverside bar. We were at one of the tables, Harry was at the bar trying to renew his acquaintance (again) with the bar maid. “And I’m sorry if it looked like I was jealous about your writer or Sukie. I guess you just had to do all that for the job and if I’m so all fired up by mine I shouldn’t complain if you get caught up in yours.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Well maybe, but I don’t blame you for getting hacked off. I wasn’t very straight with you about things.”

“No it’s OK. I mean what man wouldn’t like having two women on tap. Especially when one of them is set up to get friendly at the click of a finger.”

As apologies went it wasn’t actually a really good one but I didn’t want to push things further. “I guess so. It’s not quite like that with Rachel, though.”

“No? I thought that was how the programme worked. Just like Pavlov and his dogs, except when you ring the bell with her it’s not her mouth that starts dribbling.” She gave a laugh that I guessed was meant to convince me that she was joking. Somehow I didn’t really believe it.

“It’s a bit more complicated than that, Tricia,” I said, “but I can see it might look like that.”

“Don’t you find it a bit creepy, though? Knowing she’s been conditioned to behave like she does? I always had you down as someone that liked his women a bit more independent minded.”

It was obvious that Tricia was including herself in that. “Sure,” I said “but don’t confuse submission with a lack of independent thought. If you get to know Sukie or Rachel you’ll see there’s no lack of that. They just go at their lives in a different way.” The conversation was spiralling down. I could see us ending up throwing things at one another if I didn’t change the subject. “How are you getting on with persuading Harry to let you take a lead on a job?”

Tricia was pleased for the chance to talk about her favourite subject. “All right, I think,” she said looking furtively across the bar. Harry was still chatting happily to the bar maid. “I mean at least we’ve agreed a series of things I’ve got to do to get to a position where he’ll be happy for me to take the lead. Plus he’s get me involved with some of the research side. I think he’s happy enough with my field work, it’s just the planning that he’s not so convinced about, that, and the coordination of the various members of the team. I guess it’s fair enough but it’s pretty frustrating. I know I can do just as good a job as Eva or any of the men but I suppose I’ve just got to go on working at it.” While Tricia carried on chatting about her problems, my thoughts were drifting back to Sukie and Rachel. I could see the clock behind the bar over Tricia’s shoulder. Seven o’clock. Rachel would be starting her evening exercise sessions. I could imagine her sliding on to the frame, taking the dildos willingly with a smile and setting to with a dedication. Perhaps Sukie was with her offering encouragement. They’d tell me about it when I got back to the flat. “… or alternatively I could just tell him to stick his head as far up his arse as he can manage!”

I was suddenly aware that Tricia’s tone had changed. “What?”

“You might at least pretend to listen a bit better than that.”

“Sorry, sure, look I can understand it’s frustrating but you’ll persuade him.” Tricia didn’t look convinced by what I was saying. She believed that she could do it anyway. I just thought she needed to grit her teeth and get on with the hard work. Whether that was the answer or not, bitching to me about it wouldn’t help and I was pretty sure she wasn’t looking for advice.

That’s when my mobile went off. It was from one of the guards at the Centre. Rachel had had a relapse. She’d collapsed. It looked like another anaphylactic episode. The doctor was with her.

Chapter 57: Picking Up For Steve

Tricia hadn’t looked too pleased that I was going to dash back to the Prep Centre but what did she expect? It was one of the longest drives of my life. I had the mobile on all the way but no one called. I was driving as fast as I could without wanting to attract attention from the law – this was no time to be having to explain why I was speeding.

I dashed into the Centre and made for the Doc’s office. Her stressed and haggard look didn’t give me any encouragement.

“How is she?” I asked. “Rachel, how is she?”

“I don’t know. Maybe OK, maybe not. She had another attack.”

“What do you mean, another attack? The first one wasn’t real! Remember? It was a set up.”

“Sure, I remember. Well this wasn’t a set up, this was for real.”

“Are you sure?”

“Mmm,” she nodded. “Look, it’s probably just as well we faked the first one. The same guard was on duty. He called me straight away. ‘She’s had another one,’ he said, ‘one of those anorexic shocks. Just like last time.’ I was puzzled. I ran down there anyway, half expecting it to be some piece of faking; though how that could be after all the programme work she’d done I didn’t know. He was right it was real. Luckily I had my needles and the adrenaline. She was lying on the floor just like before. There was a plate on the floor where she’d dropped it. Walnut cake. Sukie was sitting on the bed sobbing, saying she’d just made it as a treat, she thought she’d love it. That she’d never guessed.”

“But you got the adrenaline in her? So she’s OK?”


“Why only maybe?”

“I don’t know if I was quick enough. It’s not an infallible cure. We have to replace the fluids, deal with the shock She’s still unconscious. There could be brain damage, I don’t know if I got the oxygen into her quickly enough. Especially after all we’ve been putting her through. I don’t know what state she was in, how resilient she was.”

“Can I see her?”

The Doc shook her head. “Not for a while,” she said, “I’d really like her not to be disturbed. And I want to get her to recover from this attack as well as she did from the last one. Only this time it’s going to be more difficult.”

“How’s Sukie?”

“I’m not sure. She was very upset. I’ve not seen her since we brought Rachel up here.”

If I couldn’t be with Rachel then Sukie was the one that needed me most. Actually even if I could have been with Rachel I was probably more use to Sukie. I went down to the apartment to find her.

She was still sitting where the Doc had said she’d left her, staring blankly ahead. I sat down beside her. “It’s all right, Sukie,” I said as comfortingly as I could, “I’m sure she’ll be all right. The Doc got to her in good time.”

She seemed not to notice what I was saying. “I made it for her. She’d finished the script. For the video. It was a treat. She was so happy, with her programme, so happy with her writing. She just grabbed her throat and fell. Down there.” She pointed to the floor. “She never said she couldn’t eat it. I didn’t know.”

“Of course not Sukie. She probably didn’t know herself. It can happen without warning. With things you’ve eaten before. She’ll be OK.” I reached out towards her and took her in my arms. She didn’t cry, she just sat there hanging on to me as though her life depended on it.

I sat with her all night until finally, about dawn, she fell asleep. I laid her back on the couch and covered her with a blanket before leaving to find out what the Doc had to say. Her advice was to wait. Rachel had had a quiet night. That was probably as good as it got at that stage. The Doc still wasn’t letting me see her. I went and found some coffee. I felt like shit.

The Doc found me later that morning asleep in one of the chairs in the canteen, a half empty cup of coffee on the table beside me. Things were looking better she said. I looked at my watch, I’d missed out on the briefing session for the lift that was going on right then. It didn’t seem to matter.

It felt like it had been a long time since I’d kicked off the project for Steve Glennis but finally we were making some progress. Research had done their work profiling the possible candidates. As I’d thought, their favourite was Lady Angela Marchmont too. Now the snatch team was out on the job.

I made my way over to the briefing room to wait for some news.

I looked up at the wall. The pictures, plans and diagrams that had been used to brief the snatch team were still there, pinned to the large cork panel that stretched along one side of the room. The architectural model of Marchmont Hall, constructed from the helpfully detailed plan found in the hall’s guide book, “Marchmont Hall – A Regency Masterpiece” – stood on the table in the centre.

In the middle of the cork panel was a large grainy photograph of the target, the twenty seven year old heiress to the Marchmont titles and estate. Around it were other photographs, some clipped from a recent article in “Hello!” magazine. “Wild Child or Lady of the Manor?” said the headline, “Lady Marchmont talks to us in her delightful home.” The pictures, part fashion plates, part picture post cards showed an elegantly dressed Lady Angela, draped across the furniture in the great gallery of the Hall, surrounded by its famous paintings. One, in contrast, showed the other side of Lady Angela, clad in tight leathers she sat astride the powerful motorbike that she was famed for riding at high speed through the lanes between Marchmont Hall and her flat in London.

The Marchmont collection of paintings was providing the cover for the snatch team. They would be arriving at the Hall at this very moment - a group of fine art assessors from the National Gallery, anxious to see whether the contents of the Marchmont galleries would qualify for a National Heritage Grant. As assessors of course they would be taking the greatest of care not to contaminate the pictures in any way while they examined them closely. As a result, Harry had said, this was a job where you can turn up legitimately wearing latex gloves. Training the team had been a time consuming exercise, not many of Harry’s squad had much of an idea about art, much less the finer points of Flemish seventeenth century genre painting. However after some intensive cramming at least they could tell the difference between a Rubens and a Picasso.

They’d worked out a cover story for her disappearance. Even the British police tend to sit up and take notice when one of the aristocracy goes missing. There would be a ransom demand; lots of threats from the kidnappers and plaintive appeals from her ladyship. Whether or not the ransom got paid was pretty irrelevant but when she wasn’t released it would look like a kidnap that had gone wrong.

However, it wasn’t to be. Harry came storming back into the briefing room two hours later with a severe sense of humour failure. Two cock ups, he bellowed, two cock ups on one job.

“What went wrong?” I said.

“Well it’s not so much that we did anything wrong but the target wasn’t there. Lady Angela’s butler most apologetic. Terribly nice chap. Awfully sorry we’d been inconvenienced. Certain that Lady A must not have realised we were coming. Gone off to Switzerland. Only that morning. Quite suddenly. Off for a week. Heard the snow was good and was off. Hopped on the Triumph. Off to Heathrow. Creature of impulse. Apparently.”

“Harry have you given up using pronouns? And anyway, you said two cock ups.”

“Sorry. It was talking to that butler. One cock up was no target; the other was that when the Butler said to call for an appointment in a week or so he also said it would be better if both groups of assessors were to come together, the other team had been earlier that afternoon.”

“You didn’t have two teams on the job did you?

“No. I can only imagine that we came up with such a plausible snatch arrangement that the real thing was actually going on as well. I think we’ll have to stand down that whole idea.”

”Well, I don’t really want to wait too long anyway if we can avoid it. Steve’s keen to get a driver in place as soon as he can and Lady A is going to need quite a bit of orientation. Can’t we set something up in Switzerland? What’s she going there for anyway?”


“Luge?” I said, in ignorance. “Pistol shooting?”

“No, that’s Luger,” Harry said, “Luge. It’s a sort of toboggan. She’s going to try to get a slide on the Cresta Run.”

“Is that difficult?”

“It’s difficult to do well, or rather quickly, and come off at the bottom with all your bones intact. Plus of course her ladyship has two important limitations when it comes to sliding the Cresta.”

“And they are?”

“Her tits,” Harry laughed. “The Cresta was closed to women in 1929. The men won’t let the girls play on their pitch. You’d have thought they’d make an exception for the luge.”

“How come?” I was getting mildly irritated by Harry’s evident advance knowledge.

“They go down on their backs.”

“Oh, very droll,” I said. “So how’s is Lady A going to do it?”

“I don’t know, but knowing her she’ll find a way. Oh well, if it means a trip to some expensive hotel in St Moritz, I guess we’ll just have to grin and bear it.”

I wasn’t keen to leave Rachel but I was worried about this job - Freddie had been very keen that we get Steve’s collection sorted after all the time it had taken, and I guess I was a bit twitchy after the meeting we’d all had. The Doc said there wasn’t anything I could do for Rachel for at least forty eight hours. Sukie seemed to have withdrawn completely inside herself – I couldn’t get more than a monosyllabic response to anything. I told her I’d be away for two days. She nodded. I could see she didn’t care.

That evening I found myself with the whole team in Switzerland. The hotel was comfortable but we didn’t have any time to enjoy its comforts. We couldn’t afford to waste time. We didn’t want her wandering off again.

Harry had found out that she’d be using a practice run on the other side of the valley the next morning. He’d set up the collection with the team’s usual, careful attention to detail.

“Now this is where you get to watch some professionals in action,” Harry said confidently, passing me a pair of binoculars. “Her ladyship will do her little run down the course. She’ll step out through the timing hut you can see and as she does so, two of our lot will be there to suggest in quite a firm way that she accompanies them for a ride of a different kind. We’ll catch up with them all back at the rendezvous. Ah there she is now.”

I swung my binoculars to the top of the run. Sure enough, Lady Marchmont was standing talking to a couple of others. Even from this distance she looked stunning. She was wearing a skin tight body suit of some shimmering fabric in an iridescent black. Her hair shone in the alpine sun as she talked animatedly with the others. She was holding her helmet in one hand. The luge lay on the snow beside her feet. The others headed off as she made herself ready for her run, scoping her hair up and putting on her helmet.

She took a few moments, evidently sizing up the run before she launched herself down the track and laid back, her helmet only inches from the pounding ice. The luge wound around the series of tightly banked bends, running ever faster. I watched as she came into a slower, straight section but as I did so my view was obscured by a cloud of snow.

“Hey,” called Harry, “what’s going on?” I swung my binoculars first left then right and saw a snow clearing machine pumping a great plume of snow that was drifting across the track. As I brought my binoculars back down to the track, I saw her Ladyship’s luge come bouncing down, empty. It scittered down the remainder of the run, bouncing off the track on the final sharp bend. “Where the hell is she?” bellowed Harry to no one in particular.

The cloud of snow from the snow blower started to settle. As it did so we saw two figures skiing with a stretcher between them. They swept around a mound of snow. Moments later from behind the mound, an all white Allouette helicopter, with red crosses on the side, lifted off. Harry watched it fly away down the valley with a furious look on his face.

“That was lucky,” I said, “those medics being there. She must have had a nasty crash.”

“Lucky, nothing,” said Harry. “That was no accident and they were no medics. Lady Marchmont’s been kidnapped. The only problem is that it wasn’t by us.”

Not surprisingly, Freddie was furious. It was bad enough having this happen, the fact that he was in the middle of interviews for the sales manager role – a charade he resented because he’d already decided who he thought would be best for the job – didn’t improve his mood.

“Nobody picks up our targets under our noses. Get it sorted out will you,” he’d bellowed as we’d spoken to him on a conference call later that day. “Harry, I’ll get Elly to go through with you and Rick what you think has gone wrong this time.” Harry and I looked at each other. He obviously wasn’t looking forward to that conversation and after what Clegg had said to all of us following the Brian business neither of us liked to think what might happen if we didn’t succeed.

For me it was just another complication. I’d tried to talk to the Doc about Rachel but I hadn’t been able to reach her. Sukie hadn’t been there either.

Chapter 58: Hospital Visit

Harry sat on the hillside munching on a ham roll. To anyone passing by we looked like a couple of back packers out for a hike. Harry put down his food and picked up the binoculars. The grounds of the hospital lay almost directly below us, clearly visible through a gap in the pine trees. He seemed remarkably relaxed given the strength of the telephone call he’d had with Elly. At one point he’d been holding the phone a foot from his ear. In the end though she’d been content to let Harry get on with it.

“She’s done this stuff,” Harry had said. “She knows you can’t cover every base although she did suggest that we might have guessed something was wrong from the debacle at Marchmont Hall, which is fair enough.”

“How’s Freddie,” I said. “He didn’t seem himself when we all got together last week.”

“Bogged down in admin and irrelevancies as he calls it. He’s got some problems with one of the other businesses which he can’t hand off. They’ve kept him out of touch with our stuff and he doesn’t like it. Talking to Elly, he’d much rather be out on operations or running a few accounts.”

Harry swept the binoculars across the view before bringing them back to the hospital. “Yepp, he’d much rather be here. That,” he said, “is what I’m interested in.” He passed the binoculars to me and gestured to a small outbuilding about 50 metres from the main hospital block.

I looked myself. There didn’t seem to be anything to distinguish it from any of the other half dozen or so buildings around the complex. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for,” I said handing the binoculars back.

“It’s in the right place,” said Harry taking them and peering down again. “The lads have scoped it out and its definitely being used for something illegitimate. It’s what we’d use but we need a better indication than… Hang on.” He sat up still looking through the binoculars. I could see a figure moving across the yard between the hospital and the outbuilding. The figure was a woman, I could tell that much from where I was. All in white, presumably one of the nurses. She looked as if she was carrying something. She stopped at the door and after a short pause went in. “That’s good enough for me,” said Harry. “That’s where we’ll find her ladyship.”

“Harry,” I said, “I’m happy to bow to your judgement but I imagine there plenty of nurses going backwards and forwards between the hospital and the other buildings.”

“You didn’t see it, did you? Before she went in?”

“I saw she stopped but that’s about it. You’re the one with the binoculars.”

“Well, it was a nurse all right. Carrying a tray with a meal on it.”

“It’s lunch time, Harry.”

“Sure, but why do you suppose she stopped to put her mask on before she went into the building?” I saw what he meant.

The worst possible thing if you are running an operation like the Hospital, or the Prep Centre come to that, is to get locked in to too much of a routine. But I guess with the Swiss, clockwork is what you’d expect. Every two hours a nurse would come across to the outbuilding and put on her mask and go through the door. A few minutes later another one would leave. They were on turn and turn about. Nobody else seemed ot be taking much interest. It didn’t take too much thought to work out how we were going to get in.

There was Harry, two heavies and me. We waited until dusk. One of the heavies, grabbed the nurse as she opened the door. The other was through the door ready to deal with the nurse that was already inside. By the time I’d followed Harry through the door. One nurse was struggling in the arms of the first heavy, trying to breath with one of his arms locked around her chest and one hand across her mouth. The other, sitting beside her captive’s bed, still wearing her medical mask, was staring at the barrel of our other heavy’s pistol.

Angela Marchmont was on the bed, swathed from head to foot in bandages like an Egyptian mummy she couldn’t move but she was able to see what was happening and put up a spirited mmmphing of welcome from behind the strapping that covered her mouth. Harry walked across to her. “We’ll soon have you out of here, your Ladyship,” he said. You could see the relief in her eyes. It was a shame that her rescue wasn’t going to turn out quite like she was expecting.

We tied the two nurses up, gagged them, and dumped them on the bed. That’s the great thing about hospitals, plenty of bandages and sticky tape around the place. They were wriggling and squealing quite a bit but I guess that was as much because of what their paymasters would be saying to them later when they found that her Ladyship was missing. We lifted Lady M onto a wheeled trolley and got her out of the building. Her captors might have been efficient at collecting her but security around the hospital was rotten. Two others of our team drove an ambulance in and around to where we were. We loaded her up and were on our way in moments. Nobody seemed bothered. Lady M seemed to think we should be letting her out of her bandages. We weren’t convinced that was of any value. She started struggling around where she was laid out on the bench of the ambulance. Harry slipped a hypodermic needle into her arm and gave her a shot of sedative. It calmed her down quite quickly. Now we just had to get her back to the UK.

We got as far as the airport. We had a DH104 Dove waiting for us, one of the old Flying Doctor aircraft, ancient but robust. Harry drove the ambulance into the hangar. As he and I got out, pistol shots rang out, flattening the ambulance’s tyres. Four heavies emerged from behind the Dove. They seemed to be encouraging us to surrender our cargo. I could see that Harry was sizing up the options. I’m no professional but none of them looked good to me.

Then I heard Freddie’s voice ring out. “I’m not sure that you have this situation quite as much under control as you think, Constanza.”

A dark haired woman emerged from the Dove, clutching one of Harry’s operatives against her as a shield and holding a gun to her head.

“I think we both need to sit down and have a talk.” I followed the sound of Freddie’s voice. He was standing on a gantry at the end of the hangar with three of our heavies all armed with machine pistols and another woman held at gunpoint. “It’s really not a great idea if we let off firearms with all this aviation fuel around and I think we both might end up losing more than we gain.”

“Can I trust you, Clegg?” the woman from the plane called.

“No, of course not. Any more than I can trust you. All we can do is to trust the other to act in their own best interests. So why don’t we talk about that.”

As a gesture of conciliation, Clegg came down from the gantry. The situation unwound slowly. Constanza let her captive go; Clegg released his. The heavies contrived to put their guns on safety simultaneously. Harry and I relaxed a bit. I was glad. I’d never fancied my chances in the middle of a Matrix style exchange of fire. I wasn’t sure I could move that slowly.

“Your plane or mine?” asked Clegg.

“Let’s use mine,” said Constanza, gesturing to a Mystére that stood near the door to the hangar. “We can leave her ladyship in the ambulance until we’ve decided what’s happening.” Harry and I followed Clegg and Constanza onto the ‘plane.”

All four of us sat around the board table that took up most of the forward cabin of the Mystére. “We might as well be civilised about this,” said Constanza, pressing a button on the table. “I assume you gentlemen would like a drink.” Clegg nodded and we concurred.

An oriental looking girl appeared. Clad in a tight fitting grey silk cheungsam she looked slightly familiar. Constanza invited us to order drinks and the girl bowed and took her leave. It was only when she returned carrying the loaded tray that I realised she reminded me of Rebecca. I watched her closely. She gave no indication of recognition.

As she left, Constanza turned to me. “Have you met that slave girl before?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “She looks very like a girl we sold as a flight attendant to one of the American buyers. She went as one of a pair. Maybe nine months ago. But she was Caucasian, not Asiatic.”

Constanza laughed. “My surgeon would be flattered to hear you say that. It’s probably the same girl. I bought her from Jesper. Narod Jesper, you know? He’d been using her on his aircraft but he’s decided to give it up now. He’s taken to the water, bought himself a very comfortable yacht, claims it’s more relaxing. Less dangerous. Anyway he had two flight attendants surplus to requirements and I’d just taken delivery of the Mystére. He was keen to sell quickly. I got them cheap. I’d always wanted a Chinese slave though. Trouble is they’re getting expensive. It’s got worse since the Brits moved out of Hong Kong too. Still I used the money I’d saved on the purchase to have these two, let’s say, adjusted to a reasonable facsimile. Slimming them down was no problem. They both needed surgical breast reduction to get the body proportions right and facial surgery as well of course. Remodelling around the eyes was the hardest and most important. Had to make their noses smaller too. Easiest was the dark wigs. I thought it worked well but I’m getting a bit bored with them. I’ll probably sell them on soon. Let me know if you’re interested.”

“We’re more interested in sorting out our current collection programme than actually taking your redundant stock off your hands, Constanza,” Clegg interrupted, a touch irritably. “Can we get on with it?”

“Of course, Freddie,” Constanza apologised.

“Now how are we going to sort out the question of the unfortunate lady in my ambulance?”

“Snatched from my hospital!”

“Lifted from the middle of an operation we had set up. Yes, I am sure we can both put up an excellent case for first come first served. Can I ask why you were targeting her ladyship?”

“Pure speculation on our part,” Constanza admitted. “My research teams had noticed her as a possible a while back. She’s over here skiing and tobogganing a lot. Almost an honorary Swiss. Speaks French, German and English. Plus a genuine milady. There’s a few buyers over in the old eastern that block that cling to the idea of keeping the aristocracy in their place and would like to get something like her. And you?”

“Well she’s down against a specific commission. I must admit we’d find it embarrassing to have to go back to the client. He’s very much of the view that she’s the ideal solution to his requirement. Perhaps I can suggest a compromise.”

“Suggestions, Freddie, are always welcomed,” said Constanza.

Freddie looked thoughtful for a moment. “Here’s what I propose. We’ll take her ladyship back with us but we’ll provide you with an equivalent. British aristo, multi-lingual, physically attractive of course. We’ll cover the collection costs, you cover the shipment costs from our UK Prep Centre. We’ll do the prep and orientation for you at your expense if you like or you can do your own. We’ll ship to any location in mainland Europe specified by you or your customer. You’ll run whatever cover you had planned to divert the authorities over her ladyship’s disappearance, we’ll look after the diversion for whoever we pick up.”

Constanza looked thoughtful. “Timescale?”

“One month not including prep if you use our research.” Harry looked pained. Freddie went on. “If you want to give us one of your short list then we may have to research again. Could be longer.”

“That sounds agreeable. There’s no particular need for us to have Marchmont specifically. I’ll trust your taste in women, Clegg. We’d intended to ship from the UK originally.”

“Yes, we know. We nearly trod on the toes of your team at Marchmont Hall.”

“Except that she got out before either of us turned up.”

“Ha!” said Clegg. “Bloody product. Can’t rely on it until you’ve got the ropes on the wrists.” He picked up his glass. “Can I take it we’re agreed?”

“Yes,” said Constanza. “In fact I’d like to talk to you about some other UK pick-ups we need. It might make more sense for you to do them rather than us.”

“Well let’s talk about it,” said Clegg. “You’ve got better access to the Eastern European markets than we have. I’m sure there could be areas for cooperation.”

Clegg was insufferable on the flight back, telling Harry how he should get out on operations more but in some ways I was happy to see it. He always seemed better in the thick of things than working his way through the office politics. I could see Harry wasn’t happy with the idea that Freddie might get more involved in the sharp end but at least Freddie didn’t seem too worried about the things that had gone wrong. Harry had told me about the post mortem he was planning when we got back. I guessed that Freddie would let him get on with it.

I was glad things were working out. It meant I could get back and see how Rachel was.

Chapter 59: Staples’ Diet

Steve Glennis was extremely happy when we finally got Lady Marchmont shipped across to him. As he said, “It’s taken a while but it’s been worth the wait.” He hadn’t wasted any time in putting her to use. “Had her out on a trotting rig this afternoon,” he said. She looks pretty good. Gonna take a lot of training of course, she’s got a few stripes on her buttocks but she’ll learn.”

Rachel was recovering. The Doc finally let me in to see her. She held my hand tightly when I sat down beside her on the bed. “It happened again.”

“I know, Rachel. The doctor thinks she’s isolated the cause. It was lucky we caught you in time.”

Rachel nodded quietly. “I was frightened,” she said. “It was just like the first time, but worse somehow.”

Yes, I thought, this time it was real.

“But I’m much better now. I want to get back to work. It’s so important. I know you need the script and you know I want to finish it. I thought I could do the voice over. If you’d like me to? Please let me. I’ll be well enough.”

“We’ll see.” I wasn’t at all sure.

The Doc was looking encouraging. “If you feel strong enough, Rachel,” she said, “I’m sure we can do that. It will be better for you to have something to focus on.”

Rachel smiled and nodded. “How’s Sukie?” she asked.

“She was very worried about you,” I said. “She cares a lot for you. She was so sorry - it was her cake that did this.”

Rachel nodded slowly. “I didn’t mean to scare her. Or you. I don’t know why I’ve suddenly developed this condition. I’ll just have to be careful about what I eat I guess.”

“No more walnuts, at least,” said the Doc. Rachel grinned.

“Now when can I get back to my exercises? I’m missing them so much! I need to be doing them every day at least. And what are we doing about the owner’s programme when can we get started on that?”

“Hey,” I said. “Let’s take the recovery slowly. Finish the script for the buyer’s event. Do the voice over if you’re well enough. Start back on exercises when the Doc says it’s OK and we’ll think about the rest after that. OK?”

Rachel smiled. “Thank you, Sir,” she said. “I’m sure that everything is going to be fine.”

I thought she was probably right.

While Rachel recovered we were able to pick up one of the others on my short list as a substitute for delivery to Constanza. The upper classes are such free-loaders they’re always easy to entice into somewhere that they can be introduced to a few lengths of rope and a strip or two of tape. The Honourable Diana Staples was no exception. Invited to a luncheon with the proposition that there might be an opportunity for her to act as a celebrity reviewer of restaurants for a new, up-market, leisure magazine, she jumped at the chance. I guess she figured if nothing else she’d get a good meal out of it and the chance to get some very expensive champagne down her neck.

The only trouble is champagne is one of the easiest wines in which to conceal something. Let’s say something even more relaxing than champagne usually is. Especially when you’re into your second bottle.

The hotel was very accommodating. Could they provide a room for our guest to sleep things off? Of course! Would they make sure she wasn’t disturbed? Naturally. Would they be happy if we settled the bill for that straight away so that she wouldn’t be caused any embarrassment later? Without any difficulty.

The collection team knew she’d be out for hours. They slipped in and took her out the back way in the early morning. We were all discussing the problems of running a restaurant like this with the manager, a perfect alibi if anyone was concerned.

As it happened they weren’t. Everyone assumed that she’d wandered off, still drunk. Of course finding her clothes by the river did make them all think she’d gone for a late night swim. It wasn’t really a surprise that nothing was found of her, it being so close to the sea and everything. And in her state, who knows what might have happened to her?

Well we did. And of course she wouldn’t be needing her clothes anytime soon, so it all worked out very conveniently. Constanza decided she wanted to do her own prep work, so the Honourable Diana was crated and shipped as quick as you like.

It suited Freddie; he doesn’t like leaving debts outstanding for long.

The hospitality event for the buyers turned out OK. We decided to give it a bit of a Kushtian theme with the entertainments wearing Kushtian headdresses and veils, if nothing else. Probably not very authentic but I doubt if it mattered given the audience. Certainly our guests seemed to appreciate it as the almost naked girls brought the food in at dinner time. We’d started off with Elly’s talk. It was pretty well received. She even managed a few jokes although I guess purchasing guys aren’t usually that long on humour. We had a break after that to give them a chance to mingle with one another and with some of our team. Then it had been back into the presentation theatre for Rachel’s video.

She’d done a first rate job. After the opening titles and the Clegg logo, a caption screen had come up saying….”This is the story of how two slaves came to their present position. How Clegg Enterprises identifies, acquires and prepares its products.” It moved into a section on research with Rachel providing the commentary. “We build a complete picture, carefully researching every aspect of their lives.” The film moved on to a shaky, grainy, black and white shot of women walking in to a rather bland, modern building. “Fulchester University”, the caption said, “Women’s Issues Group Meeting”. The camera was obviously held by somebody walking up to the building, perhaps concealed in a handbag. As the camera approached the building some of the women turned towards whoever was carrying the camera to wave and greet them.

The camera carrier took a seat halfway down the room. The picture zoomed shakily in to the podium at the front of the room. A woman in her mid-forties, wearing dungarees and a scarf knotted around her neck took the stage and waved to the audience. “Welcome Sisters,” she said with a wave to the audience. “Thank you for turning out to support this meeting. It’s great to see such a good crowd here. As you know one of our concerns has been to explore the condition of women in the countries emerging from the Russian empire and I’m very pleased to be able to welcome distinguished anthropologist and champion of many feminist causes, Dr Karen Armstrong.” There was a round of applause as Dr Armstrong took the stage. I was trying to remember where I’d heard of Armstrong before.

Dressed comfortably in tan slacks and a loose sweater she smiled appreciatively, obviously completely at home presenting to an academic audience.

“Dr Armstrong has recently returned from Kushtia where she has been researching the condition of women in the northern tribes. Her articles for Anthropology Today and National Geographic have highlighted the challenges that exist in bringing a more enlightened view of women’s rights to the country. I’m sure she has a fascinating presentation for us…”

As Karen stepped up to the rostrum, the camera swung around to point back up the hall towards the door. Two girls were arriving late. The camera tracked them, watching as they took their seat a couple of rows behind where the camera was. The camera zoomed in on each in turn, both blonde, both in their early twenties, one a little fuller figured than the other, both smiling and waving to the camera holder, though not, you thought, to the camera. More hidden camera footage followed. The girls in the university canteen; sitting outside one of the university buildings; getting onto bicycles and cycling out of shot. There was a shot from the viewpoint of someone working their way through a darkened office by the light of a flash light, the light stopped on a filing cabinet drawer, the drawer opened, a gloved hand rummaged through a series of files and pulled two out, leafing through their contents. “Student Record” each said on the front cover. The camera lingered on some of the documents, they were obviously being studied. The files were put back in the drawer and the drawer closed. The light of the flashlight moved back through the office, panning across a desk with a notice on it saying “Admissions Secretary”. As it got to the door it fell on the bound ankles of a woman. The light moved up the woman showing her laying on the floor, hogtied, gagged and blindfolded, struggling impotently beside a ransacked office safe as whoever was carrying it left the office.

Rachel’s voice returned on the soundtrack. “… And that research is directed to one thing, an efficient, undetected collection that does the least possible damage to the goods with the least risk to ourselves and, of course, our clients.” The shot dissolved to a country scene, with fields and woods, and as the camera turned a lake came into view. From out of shot, one of the girl’s bicycles came freewheeling down across the field, with no one to guide it, the bike shot over a low bank and into the lake sinking quickly beneath the surface. The second bicycle followed it moments later and the camera panned around to the figures of the two girls, laying on the grass, their wrists taped behind them, tape plastered across their faces as a gag. Evidently distressed, the two were wriggling in an attempt to escape from their bonds.

There were a few chortles of appreciation from the audience as the girls wriggled some more.

Rachel’s voice over came on again. “Collection is followed by training, the preparation that makes the new slaves ready for their new owners.” The view changed to some footage shot in one of the Prep Centre’s reception rooms. The two girls were sitting bound and gagged on the floor. A figure appeared and was heard to say, “Good morning, ladies. Please don’t be alarmed. You are perfectly safe here as long as you do as you are told.” The girls looked puzzled. “Perhaps I should explain,” the voice said. “You are here to be trained as slaves. You’ll be sold for the sexual amusement of your new owners.” The girls looked at one another, wide eyed with disbelief and terror. “But as long as you do as you are told you’ll be quite safe.” He reached forward stripping off the gags of each girl in turn and then rolling them over on to their faces to cut the tapes that held their wrists and ankles.

“Please let us go,” the first girl said, “we’ll be no use to you. Please let us go.”

“Yes, we won’t say anything. Please,” the second one chimed in, clinging to her friend as the two of them sat on the floor.

“You,” the voice said to one of them, ignoring the girls’ pleas. “On your feet.” The girl looked back uncertain what to do. The man reached towards her with a short pole, touching her on the ankle. The girl cried in pain and drew her leg quickly back. “This will give you a shock every time I think you are not obeying me quickly enough. That was a mild one. Get to your feet!”

The girl looked more frightened than ever, clutched her ankle and slowly got to her feet, standing unsteadily with the pain in her leg.

“Good,” said the man. “Now undress.” The girl’s hands flew to her mouth. She shook her head in defiance. The other girl shouted, “No, we won’t.” and was rewarded with a shock from the wand for her trouble; obviously a sharper one that threw her back across the room. The man turned towards the first girl with the prod. She shook her head again – this time the look in her eyes was begging the man to come no closer. She pulled off her sweater to reveal a slim figure with small breasts. She unbuckled her belt and stepped out of her jeans. “Keep going,” the man said, gesturing with the pole. She looked down at her companion sobbing as she pulled off first her bra and then finally her pants. She tried to cover herself one hand across her crotch the other at her breasts. The man shook his head and gestured with the pole. She dropped her hands to her sides.

The audience gave a raucous cheer.

“By the wall,” the man waved her over with the pole and turned to her companion. “You next. Do the same.” She only needed the threat of the pole to encourage her to her feet and to begin stripping. Slightly more heavily built than her friend with bigger, fuller breasts with large aureolas, her nakedness on the video earned a bigger cheer.

Rachel’s voice returned as the two girls were herded to one side of the cell, hands on their heads, feet slightly apart. “And so their training begins. A long process, taking weeks.” The man kept them under threat of the prod with one hand while running his free hand over their bodies, feeling their breasts and bellies. “And at the end – compliant slaves read for use in sexual roles, for domestic tasks or for what ever purpose their eventual owner desires.”

I took my cue from the script that Rachel had provided. As the film flickered to its conclusion, I stepped onto the low stage, leading two slaves by chains to their neck collars. Each of the two were naked except for their veils and head-dresses. The eyes, heavily made up, kohl rimmed, lashes long and thick with mascara, peered out over their veils at the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I said. “You’ve seen how we acquire and prepare our products. For the rest of the evening, we’d like you to sample them.” I jerked the veils from the two girls, revealing them as the girls from the video. The audience cheered again. The girls looked nervous but did not resist as I led them down into the body of the room. Six others were brought in at the same time, enough for each of our guests to have their own slave for a few hours. They all seemed willing to take advantage of our hospitality and the girl’s availability.

It was late before the event finished and our guests retired. Rachel and Sukie were waiting for me in the suite that Brad had arranged for us. The Doc had been happy enough with Rachel’s progress to let her come down provided that Sukie took care of her. Sukie had been grateful for the chance to be together with her friend again. They had obviously already been playing together, straps and handcuffs lay on the bed, Sukie was wearing a bright green strap-on that they’d borrowed from the Sexualisation programme. Rachel was kneeling up on the bed, naked and smiling. “How did it go? How was the video? Did it work?”

“It was fine,” I said. “They enjoyed it. It had the effect we wanted. Feedback from the buyers is that they hadn’t realised that there was so much in what we did, which is a result as far as we’re concerned. Well done Rachel, the video made a big difference. But how are you?”

“Fine,” she said, “I’m fine. And so is Sukie. Aren’t you?” Sukie nodded bashfully. Rachel smiled happily and clapped her hands. “And are we going to play now?”

“Why not?” I said, “I think I’ve earned some fun today.” And the three of us fell together.

Chapter 60: Ownership 101

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to this first session of our training programme.”

It had fallen to me to kick off the first of the Slave Owners 101 as it had come to be called. We’d converted a wing of the Sales Centre to provide some lecture rooms and a couple of rooms for practical work as well of course the cells to provide secure accommodation for our “training aids”.

We’d brought together a group of five for this first session. Freddie had canvassed some of our existing customers and got them to recommend people. Two of our trainees were members of the family of existing owners, one had just bought their first slave, the two others were prospective owners, using the course as a way of seeing how slave owning would work out for them.

Rachel had worked on the programme with some of the guys from Rick’s operations team. We’d put together some sessions that covered tools of the trade, security, discipline and training, slave welfare, and (not unnaturally) buying and selling.

The group were pretty attentive as I ran through the schedule. All of them looked enthusiastic when I said that we aimed to spend as little time as possible in the classroom; we wanted them to have as much practical experience as possible, I said, and there were rooms equipped so that each of them would have their own one-on-one slave handling sessions.

We introduced them to the five slaves that they would be working with, Beth, Ella, Carol, Alice and Sarah too. It was good to have the two older women and two youngsters as a mix, plus of course there was a real benefit in having Sarah who wasn’t as compliant as the other four that had been through the programme. We aimed to move the slaves around between the students so that they’d all get a chance to work with each of them.

Having told them about what we planned to cover, I handed over to one of Rick’s teams to kick off the session on security. He started off by writing the on one of the flip charts. “There Are Only Two Things You Have To Remember About Security.” He turned back to the audience. “Does anyone want to take a guess?”

The audience managed to look both blank and interested. He turned back to the board and started writing again. “1. You have to be lucky all the time. 2. The slave only has to be lucky once.”

The audience gave a laugh. He launched into his talk. “This is all about how you make sure that your slaves don’t get lucky,” he said, “and how you can make sure that you don’t have to be quite as lucky as you might think.”

I left them to it. Rachel was waiting when I got back to the apartment. She had just emerged form the shower. “You just missed the Doc,” she said.

“What did she say? Is she happy with how you're doing? I mean, you seem fine to me now, but…”

“I’m fine,” said Rachel, “completely OK. She say’s I can go back onto the programme from tonight.” I looked concerned. “It’s fine, Sir, really. This second attack just made me more determined. I am not going to let anything stand in my way. I’m doing a good job aren’t I? The buyer’s conference went well, didn’t it? The training course will be good too, just wait and see.”

“But do you need to do more of the programme?”

“Don’t be silly,” she said chiding. “Of course. I have to finish the whole thing. You wouldn’t want me to turn around and whack you again like I did the first time I had the chance, would you?” She giggled, recalling her escape attempt when she had first been brought to the centre.

I smiled ruefully in response, remembering the lump that the keyboard had raised on the back of my head, not to mention the embarrassment of being found hogtied with computer cables and a mouse jammed in my mouth as a gag. “Not at all. You’d better get off to the training room straight away then. I much prefer the current Rachel.”

“Yes,” she said gathering up her things. “So do I.”

I watched her go. As I turned back I saw that Sukie had come into the room. I hadn’t heard her. “She is going to be alright, isn’t she?” Sukie said.

I could see she looked worried. I took her in my arms. “Sukie, I’m sure she’s going to be fine.” Sukie put her head against my shoulder, her long black hair spilling down behind my back. “The Doc’s going to do a battery of allergy sensitivity tests so we’ll know what to look out for in future. And she’ll have a crash medical kit to keep with her. It wasn’t anything you did. We were lucky it happened here where the Doc was on hand. Imagine if it had happened to Rachel somewhere that she was on her own.”

Sukie sniffed back a tear. She lifted up her head and nodded. “Thank you,” she said. “Can I do anything for you? Some tea? Or,” she smiled, “some play?”

I looked down into her almond eyes. Her offer was tempting. I ran my hand down the soft smoothness of the hair that framed her face. “It will have to be tea for now,” I said. “I have to do some more work for the training course, and I don’t intend to deliver a session on advanced sexual debauchery with you as a training aid.”

Sukie giggled. “We’ll keep that for in here,” she said. “I’ll bring you some tea.”

I spent about an hour working to put the final touches on my session on buying and selling slaves and then went down to see how the others were getting on.

The “Introduction to Security” session had finished and the students were just getting back after a coffee break. They had evidently found the first session interesting to listen to their chatter as they returned to the training room. Another of Rick’s team was waiting for them. On the flip chart at the front of the room. “Bondage Tools – Equipment Range & Uses”.

The session started with a question intended to get the audience thinking. “All right,” said he trainer, “what is bondage for?”

This time the students looked truly bemused. “Well, you’ve got to stop them wandering off haven’t you? I mean we’ve been through all that in the session on security, haven’t we?”

“True,” said the instructor, “but is that all?” He wasn’t getting any real response. “OK,” he said. “I’d like to suggest to you that there are three basic roles that bondage will play n your slave-keeping. First is secure restraint; your point,” he gestured to the student that had made the suggestion. “But there are two others. The second is punishment. You’ll find that the threat of punitive restraint can have a significant deterrent value in maintaining discipline. Would anyone like to try for the third purpose?” “Well, it’s quite good fun,” the same student advanced, gaining nods of approval form his colleagues.

“Absolutely,” said the trainer. “That’s the third purpose. Amusement. After all, if you are not enjoying the use of your slaves, there really isn’t a lot of point to it. Don’t ever lose sight of that.” He wrote the three words – Restraint, Punishment, Pleasure – on the board and walked over to the door to the room. “Now let’s have a look at a selection of devices and discuss just how we might use each of them in each of those scenarios.” He opened the door and led in Beth, Ella, Carol, Alice and Sarah, each secured and gagged in different ways, the four of them joined one to the other by chains that linked their slave collars. Apart from the various bondage devices they were all naked. The trainer brought forward each of the girls in turn, asking the participants to call out the bondage items that they recognised.

“Yes, ball gag, pretty much the general purpose silencer. …. Good yes, that’s a single arm binder as you say or sometimes called a bondage sleeve. …. This – yes a discipline collar or corset collar. This one’s is quite an extreme version as the turnbuckle here can be extended to push the chin up and the head back. …… These are bondage mittens and this is a ring gag – very definitely in the category of punitive restraint, that one I would say, although you might feel that it has its amusements too.”

He carried on working along the line of girls. Even with their conditioning as a result of the programme Beth and Ella were obviously unhappy with being displayed in this way but as far as the tutor was concerned this just added to the student’s experience. Beth was wearing a rubber straight jacket and a hood with large ring shaped panels over the eyes. The instructor wrestled a reluctant Beth to the front.

“This hood is particularly effective,” he said. “You’ll have noticed that it keeps the slave reasonably quiet but a nice feature is these goggles. They are equipped with two polarised lenses. You can simply rotate the outer lenses and the slave is immediately rendered unable to see.” He demonstrated. Beth became even more distressed as the polarised glass cut off her sight. Her muffled grunts of complaint served only to show that the instructor had been right about the hood’s gagging qualities.

My mobile phone buzzed. I picked it up. Steve Glennis was calling. I stepped out from the training room to take the call. “Hi, Steve,” I said.

“Hi,” he said. The line was a bit crackly, I guessed he was calling from the island. Maybe out by the pool or down on the beach. Suddenly I felt like a holiday. “Just wanted to give you a heads up on my new driver.”

I guessed he was talking about Lady Marchmont. “I hope she’s doing all right for you.”

“Very good, very good. Firstly thanks for sending over her details and everything. Meant I could get the right gear for her. She’s looking real cute in this English riding habit, top hat, veil and everything, hair done up at the back in one of those little nets, looks like she’d win a mention for turn out in a dressage competition all on her own.”

“Great,” I said.

“And when it comes to driving she’s real aggressive. Drives a rig like her motor bike or one of those bob-sleigh things. She’s certainly exercising the ponies.”

Steve was obviously pretty pleased. “Well, don’t let her wear them out,” I said.

“No sir! No danger of that. Anyway I just thought I’d give you a call. I’m gonna take her up to the house now see if she’s as willing in the bedroom.” I heard a muffled squeal in the background. Her Ladyship, evidently gagged, was presumably in earshot. “I’ve suddenly got an urge to push that skirt up over her hips and sink myself into a British upper class cunt.” There was another squeal. Lady M was obviously having an impact on Steve, I couldn’t remember him ever being so crude in the past.

“Have fun,” I said. He hung up.

Chapter 61: True Romance

I was glad to be able to duck out of the training course for a while. It was obviously going well but I’ve never seen myself as a natural teacher. Besides, I’d promised to meet up with Brad.

The lounge of the Emir’s castle was every bit as luxurious as I remembered it. I was sat comfortably on one of large leather sofas when the Emir emerged from another room and strode across to greet me, hand outstretched.

“Hey, Larry,” he boomed. “Good to see you. Been too long.”

I got to my feet and shook his hand. “Yeah, well, we’ve all been busy and I guess you have too.”

“Always busy, Larry, always busy. You know that. Not going to build a trade network over here without plenty of work.” He sat down in one of the armchairs. I took my place back on the sofa.

“So, how’s it going? The trade network?”

“Yeah, OK. Some of your British companies don’t seem to have worked out the benefits of exporting yet but we’re getting there. Too many of them think that Kushtia is some kind of third-world economy and they might never get paid.”

“Can’t you do anything to reassure them?”

“Well it’s difficult. There’s some government help on credit guarantee but that’s not the tack we’re taking. We’re spending more effort on convincing them that the risks are worthwhile; that the benefits outstrip the potential problems. The castle here has been a great help for that. I’ve got a couple of directors from a defence contractor enjoying a little Kushtian style hospitality in the castle keep at the moment. The two little Dutch dykes are putting on a show for them and they’ve got a couple of girls in traditional Kushtian costume who have been told that they had better see that these guys have a really good time. That seems to be helping.”

I smiled. “I guess that kind of thing always helps to oil the wheels.”

“Yeah, but it’s more like baby oil than Brent Crude,” Brad grinned. “It’s an uphill struggle, though. I’m not sure whether the benefits are enough to let us keep this place open in the long term.”

“That would be a shame,” I said.

Brad shrugged, “Things will work out one way or another. Don’t worry, I don’t see our requirements for your products reducing any. Hey and thanks for advice on the National Geographic article – the fuss died down soon enough apart from one thing which I want to talk to you about. That’s later though. I wanted to ask you a favour.”

“Happy to help if I can,” I said.

“Well, here’s the thing. Lauren’s getting married.”

“Terrific,” I said. “You must be very proud. I’d like to congratulate her.”

“Ah, well. That’s a bit of the problem. She doesn’t actually know yet. The Kushtian way is more, like, well, arranged than over here. The girl doesn’t get to choose like they do over here. And with me now working for the Ministry of Trade, I sort of have to do things the traditional way.”

I could imagine that Lauren wouldn’t be too impressed with the idea. “Still,” I said, “I’m told a lot of arranged marriages work out well. They just have to work at getting to know one another after the wedding.”

“Yeah, well, I guess so.” Brad seemed embarrassed by the whole thing. “I mean I didn’t really get to know her mother until after we were married. Who’d have thought she’d be the whoring, vengeful, shrew she turned out to be.” He gave a wry smile. “It’s just that Lauren’s bridegroom-to-be probably wouldn’t have been her first choice. He’s one of the leaders of the Hill Tribes, from way up in the north eastern highlands. Even in Kushtia they’re considered a bit, well, backward. He’s an old friend of my father’s and he has just been asked to become part of the Governing Council.”

“Good move for you,” I said. “and Lauren will probably think the whole hill top chief thing incredibly romantic.”

“Oh yes, it’s a good thing from my perspective,” Brad responded. “Definitely. But I’m not sure Lauren will get the romantic bit. He’s quite, he’s not, well, really her generation. There’s a bit of an age gap.”

“How bad?”


“Hey, I know a lot of sixty year old guys. They’re still able to give a girl a good time. She shouldn’t worry.”

“No, not sixty years old. A sixty year gap. He’s 78. And after 78 years in the Kushtian highlands you tend to get a bit grizzled.”

“Hmm, I see what you mean. I’m not sure how I can help, though.”

“Well, I’m not sure Lauren’s going to be real happy with the idea of going back to Kushtia with her new husband. I think Freddie said you guys have some great transport arrangements for less than willing travellers.”

I thought back to my first visit to the Prep Centre when Rick had shown me the despatch area and the way they used adapted cargo containers to air-freight product long haul. “Yeah, sure. We have these high class crates.”

“Well, I’d like to borrow one. Plus a bit of professional help to get Lauren crated up and safe for transport. Just, sort of, if things don’t work out when we tell her about going to Kushtia.”

“And when does that happen?”

“Just after we announce the engagement.”

From what I’d seen of Lauren I was pretty sure the crate would be needed. “I’m sure we can help,” I said.

“Terrific,” said Brad. “Let’s hope we don’t need it. Now, come and meet my future son-in-law.”

I hadn’t realised that Lauren’s husband-to-be was already here but I was happy to follow Brad down to meet him. He was sitting down in the bar beside the castle’s pool, dividing his attention between the wide screen TV and the girls swimming and diving in the pool. As he saw Brad and I approaching he got to his feet. He was short, bald, and weather beaten with skin the colour and texture of a walnut. He gave a phlegm laden cough.

“Larry, this is Kushnati Koresh, one of the Kushtian Council elders. Mr Koresh; Larry.” Kushnati Koresh nodded.

“Mr Koresh, I’m delighted.” He coughed again and wheezed, leaning forward on his stick. The three of us sat down. One of the girls brought us some drinks from the bar. It soon became obvious that Mr Koresh spoke hardly any English.

“Are you enjoying your stay here?” I asked, slowly.

“Arrgn,” he said with a smile that showed a mouth half filled with yellowed teeth. I took that for a “yes”.

“I expect that the countryside here is greener than you own home land?”

“Arrgn,” came the reply with another smile, this time accompanied by a hearty belch and a smell of soured yak’s milk that took my mind straight back to roadside food stalls that I’d carefully avoided in Kolin.

We hadn’t been sat down long when Lauren appeared, slouching along beside the pool. She peered at the three of us, blew a bubble of gum and then came over. Ignoring me and Mr Koresh, she spoke to her father. “I need to borrow the car.”

“Lauren,” Brad said, “say hello to Mr Koresh and Larry.”

“Yeah. Sure. Hi. Whatever.” She gave us a perfunctory wave. “Can I get the car keys?”

Brad fumbled in his pocket. “They’re in my jacket. I’ll come and find them.” He got to his feet.

“Great,” said Lauren. “Sorry to drag you away from the gimmers.” She smiled at us and stalked off.

Brad got up. “What can you do?” He shrugged his shoulders and followed his daughter.

Kushnati Koresh watched the two of them go. “Arrgn. Much to manage,” he said in a heavily accented voice. “But worth it.”

“I am sure she will make an excellent wife, Mr Koresh,” I said.

“Arrgn”. He reached inside his jacket and pulled a stained brown envelop from it. He pressed it into my hand and mimed to me that I should open it.

Inside, written in a carefully printed hand it said. “My father has asked me to write this as he does not speak English so well. He would like your help with a problem.”

I was getting used to being asked for help. The letter went on. “As part of an engagement it is usual for the bridegroom to present the father of the bride with some item of value to show his sound position and suitability as a husband for the daughter. I think the Emir has a great enthusiasm for young ladies and losing his daughter will be a blow of course. I think my gift should go some way to softening that blow. I want you to find a special girl. Someone that would bring the Emir great pleasure and compensate for the sadness he will feel in losing his daughter.”

I thought about the tantrums and temper that I had seen from Lauren and felt pretty comfortable with the idea of finding a girl that would offer some compensation. “Leave it with me,” I said, tucking the paper and the envelop in my pocket. “I’m sure that a suitable gift can be found.”

“Arrgn,” responded Mr Koresh, “

Brad reappeared “So are you going to be able to join us for the happy party?” he said. “We’re aiming to confirm the engagement on the 20th. I hope that you and Mr Clegg will be able to join us.”

“We would be delighted,” I said, but it didn’t give me much time to come up with Mr Koresh’s present to the Emir.

“I’ll get my PA to see to the details.” Brad pressed a button on a remote control handset. There was a squeal from an adjacent room and a woman came teetering in on stilt high heels. To my surprise it wasn’t Cindy. “Neat device, this,” said Brad waving the remote. “Press the button, she gets a little shock in her knickers and knows to come running.” The woman looked embarrassed rather than annoyed.

“Is Cindy not helping out in the office?” I asked.

“Nah,” said Brad. “I wanted to talk to you about that. Would you believe my lord and master back in Kushtia took a fancy to her and had me ship her out there. Very pleased with her he was but it’s left me short handed. This is one of the girls you shipped down as part of the domestic staff. Turns out she used to be a PA, so I switched her for Cindy. She’s not as cute but she’s OK,” The girl looked embarrassed, “Trouble is, Lauren wanted to carry on having use of Cindy but I couldn’t fight the top man could I? Letting my daughter have the use of Cindy had kept Lauren off my back which was sort of handy. Only trouble is Mr Koresh needs a companion while he’s here and he quite liked the look of Cindy – don’t you?”

“Arrgn,” said Kushnati Koresh with another toothy grin and a yak’s milk laden belch.

“I don’t suppose I could rent that Sarah girl again, could I?”

I said I’d see what I could do.

A squeal of tyres and crunching of gears from outside indicated that Lauren was on her way. Brad grimaced at the sound of tortured automobile. “You know, sometimes, I wish that my daughter was a little more dainty. She spends all her time in jeans and swears like a long-shore man. But what can you do?”

As Brad looked towards the window, I wasn’t certain if he was more worried for his daughter or his car. What I did notice, sitting in his open briefcase, was a copy of the fetish magazine Second Skin. On the cover was a picture of a well endowed, well corseted, young lady and the title “Burlesque Special : Newcomer Hettie Van Voom”. I nodded towards the picture. “Perhaps you were hoping for something more like that?” I said.

“Ain’t she something!” exclaimed Brad. “A bit different from Lauren, wouldn’t you say?”

“Hmm,” I agreed, leafing through the magazine at Brad’s invitation. “I don’t think Lauren could manage those heels with her trademark slouch.”

“And that much make-up wouldn’t go well with her scowl either,” Brad laughed.

It was all good fun but now I had a really good idea for Kushnati’s present. The only trouble was I wasn’t sure we could get things in line before the 20th. And Brad still hadn’t told me what the “one thing” was concerning the National Geographic article.

Chapter 62: True Romance

End of part 8