Market Forces
Part 9
by Freddie Clegg

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

Chapter 62: Practical Slave Keeping

When I got back to the Prep Centre the Owner’s Course was in its final sessions. I looked in on one of the practical sessions through the viewing panel. The trainee was sitting in an armchair as Sarah appeared in the room.

“You sent for me, Sir,” she said.

The trainee looked uncomfortable. “Yes, err, slave,” he said, “I did.”

There was an uncomfortable silence.

“What was it you wanted, Sir?” Sarah said, trying to be helpful.

“Err, oh, err, yes,” he was fumbling with some papers, obviously his notes from the earlier sessions. “Ah, yes. Naked. Can you take your clothes off, slave? I want to see you naked.”

Uncharacteristically, Sarah looked back blankly at him. I remembered that for some of the sessions Sarah was supposed to act ‘difficult’.

The trainee seemed non-plussed by her lack of response. He got to his feet. “Come on girl, get on with it. Take those clothes off. All of them. Now!” he blustered. “You’re supposed to do as you are told, aren’t you? Why won’t you do as I say?”

Sarah stood still, staring blankly ahead of herself.

“What am I supposed to do to get you to do as you are told?” The man was looking around him in confusion. “You’re a slave. Do as you are told! Now!”

“I don’t want to, Sir. I don’t like taking my clothes off. It’s not nice of you to ask me.”

“Not nice! Not NICE! What’s nice got to do with it? Look just do as you are told, will you?”

“No, Sir, I don’t want to do that.”

The man sank back into his seat, holding his head in his hands. “Oh this is hopeless,” he said. “I’m never going to be able to cope with this.”

Sarah walked across and knelt beside him. “Oh, it’s not so difficult,” she said sympathetically. “Look, you just have to be firmer with the slave, more decisive. Threaten to punish them. Actually punish them if necessary. You remember the acronym don’t you? GRIP? Get a GRIP?”

“Oh, yes,” the man looked more cheerful. “Yes, GRIP. G – Give clear orders, R – Repeat to make sure they are understood, I – Insist that they are obeyed and threaten if necessary, P – Punish if they aren’t.” He got to his feet again, pulling himself up to his full height. “Right, let’s see. You! Get undressed. Now. Straight away. Take off that blouse immediately and then the skirt. Do it girl!”

Sarah got to her feet, seeing that he was being much more decisive than before. She still wasn’t hurrying to comply though.

“Haven’t you understood? Let me say it again. Take. Off. Your. Clothes. That’s not complicated is it?”

“No, Sir, but..”

“Don’t answer back, I don’t want to hear another word from you until you are naked. You’ll obey me now,” he said getting into his stride, “and if you don’t you’ll be beaten.” He pulled a stick from the selection on the wall of the training room and tapped it on Sarah’s arm. “Come on, unbutton that blouse.” Sarah still delayed. The tap became a blow and then another on the other arm. Now Sarah started to work at the buttons of her blouse. “That’s better,” he said growing in confidence. “Keep going.” Another tap followed as soon as Sarah showed any sign of slowing. She unfastened the cuffs of the blouse and pulled it off. “Better,” the man said. “Now the skirt and be quick about it.” More taps to the arm encouraged Sarah to unfasten the waistband of her skirt and to unzip it, letting it fall to the floor around her ankles. “That’s not enough. Bra and panties next. Get on with it.” This time the blow from the cane was heavier and came down on her thighs.

“Oww,” yelped Sarah in genuine pain, “that hurt.”

“Of course it did, slave. That’s why you should do as you are told more quickly. Naked, I said and quickly.” Now Sarah did as she was ordered and was soon standing before the man, naked except for the collar that she as all slaves in the centre, wore all the time. “That’s better he said. “Now get over to the wall. Over to the wall. Face it. Hands on your head. That’s right. And stand up straight girl or you’ll be beaten again. Understand?”

“Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir.” Said Sarah compliantly, obeying the man at once.

As Sarah reached the wall, the door at the far side of the room opened and one of the trainers came in. “Well,” he said, “how did that feel?”

“Ah, well,” said the man, “not too bad. In the end. Bit of a shaky start, I suppose but OK once I got the hang of it.”

“Hmm,” said the trainer. “Well remember the ‘get a GRIP’ acronym – that will help. OK let’s go back to the main room now. Slave,” he called across to the naked Sarah, “get dressed and that will be all for now.”

“Yes, Sir,” she said, continuing to stand with her hands on her head until they had left the room. I wandered around so that I would catch her once she had finished dressing.

She was still fastening her blouse as I came into the room. She stopped and looked up.

“That’s all right, Sarah,” I said. “Carry on.” She returned to buttoning her blouse. “How did the training sessions go?”

“Umm, OK, I think? Some of the trainees seem to have caught on quite quickly. Some of the others are finding it a bit harder.”

“So I saw.”

“Oh,” Sarah went on. “I wanted to thank you.” I looked puzzled. “I think you saved me from being shipped off to that awful Emir’s castle. I’d be there now if I wasn’t doing this, wouldn’t I?” I nodded. “Well it’s a relief. I hadn’t meant to upset Harry but I was concerned about Cindy, even thought she turned out to be horrible to me about it but I couldn’t have faced going back there with that dreadful torture chamber and that awful girl Lauren and …”

Sarah’s monologue was interrupted by the arrival of one of the guards with a trolley, straps and gag.

Sarah giggled. “You don’t need that. I know my way back to my cell,” she said.

The guard looked at me. I nodded. He grabbed a protesting Sarah and wrestled her onto the trolley before strapping her on to it. “What’s going on?” she asked as he fastened the buckles on the straps around her wrists and pulled others across her ankles, her knees, her waist, and her chest. “Please. What is it?” The guard held up a choice of gags, the standard ball gag or a thicker plug gag set in a leather strap that in was held in place by a head harness that locked in place. She was going to be cross when I told her what was going on. I pointed to the plug and strap gag.

By the time that was fastened in place she was struggling against the straps and grunting animatedly.

“I’m sorry that you didn’t enjoy the Castle, Sarah,” I said. “It’s just that you’re going off there for a while.” Her muffled squeals took on a more intense tone. “Just for rental, nothing permanent.” More squeals. “I’m sure Lauren won’t be too bad. Or the other girls.” Sarah was shaking her head. The guard seeing the problem fastened a strap across her forehead to stop any risk of her hurting herself. Her squeals of protest didn’t abate.

The guard reached into his pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper. “Transport authorisation,” he said. “Are you signing it?”

I nodded, took it from him, scribbled my autograph on it and handed it back.

“Thanks,” he said. “The truck’s waiting.” And with that he wheeled the still protesting Sarah away.

Chapter 63: Fetish Un Fair

As it happened things worked out very well on timing for Brad. It allowed us to collect the present for the Emir just in time and without any of that difficult business of trying to cover up what you are doing. It’s not often you can abduct a woman in broad daylight to the applause of a surrounding crowd.

Harry’s team set things up. We found out that Hettie Van Voom was featuring at a forthcoming fetish fair, helping launch a new range of corsetry by compéring their catwalk show at the event. I put my “PR expert” hat on. We convinced the company that they’d get extra attention if a Hettie was “arrested” at the end of the show and taken away by a group of corset clad dominas. They thought it was an excellent plan. Hettie, they assured us, was a game girl; she’d be happy to go along with it. We said we could supply the ideal girls to do it. They agreed to let us have the costumes.

Tricia, Eva and a couple of others from Harry’s team weren’t so easy to convince. “We’re going to be wearing WHAT?” said Tricia, when the idea was first mooted. “This is just some way you and Harry can get your rocks off, isn’t it?”

I tried to reassure her but she didn’t sound as though she really believed me. It was only after Harry had run through the whole plan and the background on Hettie, the target, that she agreed to do it.

I got to the fair in plenty of time. After my encounters with Kelly it was interesting to see what an industry had sprung up around the needs and wants of the fetish crowd. I was looking on one stand at a selection of bondage toys that showed every bit as much ingenuity as some of the things in Rick’s Prep Centre when I saw her. Kelly was talking animatedly with a couple of other girls, all three dressed in black PVC Basques, high heels and stockings as they wandered between the stands. I didn’t think it was smart to get spotted, given what we had planned for later, so I slipped away behind the stand, backing into the one place where I could be confident she wouldn’t find me; the gents washroom. I gave her a few minutes to get clear and then emerged. Luckily she’d gone.

I joined the throng of people around the stage as the corsetry fashion show was about to start. The company’s sales manager was doing his initial chat but after only a few moments he said, “And now ladies, gentlemen, slaves and masters or mistresses, devotees of the bizarre, and fetish enthusiasts, please welcome the sensational Hettie Van Voom!”

The crowd applauded wildly. Hettie walked out dressed in a 1950’s style shirt waister dress with a widely flared skirt. It was yellow with black polka dots. So were the high heeled shoes she wore with it. Her sunglasses were perched atop a platinum blonde head of hair set rigid in a lacquered bouffant style. She stepped confidently down the catwalk. Waved to the audience. Looked thoughtful for a moment and said, “Oh, it’s so hot in here.” The audience cheered.

With that she stripped off her dress to even more enthusiastic applause revealing a corset, bra and pants beneath in the same yellow and black polka dot fabric. Thick suspenders held up fully fashioned stockings. Her bra was boned and wired to produce both an extravagant cleavage and an unnaturally conical breast line. She smiled and waved again and took her place at the podium.

“Hello everybody,” she called. “It’s so lovely to see you!”

The audience called back as one. “Lovely to see you too, Miss Van Voom.”

Hettie giggled and began her presentation. “A marvellous selection of corsetry, lingerie and playwear,” she said. “Let’s see the first model….”

The show began to the sounds of a series of fifties pop tracks, the models stepping forward, and showing a range of exciting corsets in every fabric imaginable. The crowd seemed impressed with what they saw. Hettie was doing a good job of keeping the enthusiasm going.

Finally the show concluded. All six models were lined up on the catwalk. Hettie was applauding them and the crowd, proclaiming that she couldn’t wait to try some of the items modelled for herself.

It was then that Tricia, Eva and the team made their appearance. The crowd parted as four masked women clad in black vinyl cat suits, corsets, and stilt heel boots approached the stage. “Hold it there, please,” called Eva, holding up her hand as she stepped up onto the platform. The other three took up positions alongside her, legs apart, hands on hips, confronting the audience. “Are you Miss Hettie Van Voom?”

“Why yes,” replied Hettie feigning shock at the interruption.

“I am afraid you are under arrest for investigations relating to crimes against fashion,” Eva responded.

Hettie, who had been primed about the ‘arrest’, milked the part for all it was worth. “Surely not officer. How can it be? I mean, you only have to look at me.” She flung her arms wide. The crowd cheered, enjoying the addition to the show.

“That’s enough Miss Van Voom. We have reason to believe that the polka dots on your underwear are two millimetres too large in contravention of the European Union convention on fashion print design.” The crowd gave a horrified “Oooh!!”

“Oh no!” exclaimed Hettie, holding her hands to her mouth.

“You’ll have to come with us,” said Eva. Hettie tried to run but her high heeled, platform soled shoes encumbered her even more than the heels on the boots our girls were wearing. She was seized by Tricia and brought back to the front of the stage. “Well,” said Eva, “If you won’t come quietly.” On cue, Tricia popped a ball gag into her mouth. The crowd cheered as she buckled it in place. Hettie was wriggling in a theatrical manner. “And you’ll have to be restrained.” The crowd cheered again as cuffs were locked around her wrists. “Ladies,” said Eva to the others, “bring on The Transporter!”

A trolley was wheeled forward. Hettie was strapped to it. Eva and the others wheeled her back along the catwalk to cheers and applause. They stood at the curtains through which the models had appeared and waved to the crowd. Hettie gave an impressive display of gagged protest. They turned and wheeled her out through the curtains.

It was quite some time before anyone realised that they hadn’t stopped behind the stage but had taken her straight through the back of the exhibition hall and out onto a truck and even then it was assumed to be some sort of publicity stunt. By then she was already well on her way to the Prep Centre, still locked in handcuffs, gagged and strapped to her trolley.

Tricia had done a pretty good job, I thought, and I told her so when we got back to the flat. Sometimes giving her a compliment is a mistake. “It’s a pity Harry doesn’t seem to notice. After all this time he still won’t let me take a lead role. I’ve been pestering him about it but all he says is more experience, more experience.”

I tried to let the subject drop but Tricia wasn’t having any of it. “You work with him. Why aren’t you telling him I’m ready to take a lead.”

“Tricia, he knows I haven’t the first idea. You know how effective I am at operations. He only lets me get as involved as I do if there’s plenty of cover. There’s no chance he’s going to take any notice of me.”

“Well, I still think you could ask him.” It was the nearest I’d seen her come to sulking.

“Look,” I said, keen to move on, “I’ll raise it with him but you should be asking him what you need to do in order for him to let you lead. That’s more likely to have an effect.”

She gave a hmmphing noise that didn’t communicate much enthusiasm. It didn’t make for much of an evening.

Chapter 64: Back With The Emir

My mobile rang the following day. It was Kelly. “Hi,” she said. “I didn’t know you were going to the Fetish Fair. Why didn’t you say? We could have gone together?”

I made some, eh? who? what? noises and said that I would have called her but I had to be there on business. (Which was true.) I’d been looking over the hall as a possible venue for an exhibition that one of my clients was planning. (Which wasn’t.)

She asked if I’d seen Hettie’s “kidnapping”. I didn’t want to tell too many porkies – besides that might have been where she’d seen me - so I said, “Sure.”

“Wasn’t it just a hoot!” said Kelly. “One of the best things I’ve seen. Those people knew how to put on a show.”

“I was impressed,” I said, “more elaborate than any of our games.”

“Maybe but we still have fun. When are we getting together again? Assuming that you want to?”

“Sure, sure,” I said. “I’m sorry I’ve been busy lately. You know how things are. When are you free?”

“I’ve got to be down in London for a couple of nights next week. Tuesday and Wednesday. Maybe we could meet up?”

“Mmm, Tuesday’s good for me,” I said. “Tell you what, text me where you’re staying and I’ll catch up with you at some point in the evening.”

“Sound like fun,” she said. “Why do I think that might not be just you buying me dinner?”

“Send me a text and you’ll see,” I said. She laughed and hung up. I headed off to find Freddie.

Freddie and I turned up at the Castle in plenty of time for the engagement announcement. Hettie had been brought along too, in the back of a van, in some very special packaging. We’d also brought a transport case for Lauren in case the Emir needed it.

The biggest surprise was that Lauren was waiting in the lounge dressed in full traditional Kushtian woman’s dress. True the robe and veil that she wore were goth-black and the pill box hat appeared to have been fashioned from leather and was decorated with studs rather than the coins which symbolised an unmarried girl’s dowry, but at least she was making the effort we thought. There was one incongruous feature of her appearance, however. From each ear, the trademark white wires of iPod earphones snaked down to disappear beneath her robe.

“Hello, Lauren,” I said. “Nice to see you. Is your father around?”

She looked at is as if we had just crawled out from some stone or other. She didn’t bother to turn down the volume on her iPod. “Whatever,” she said waving her hand in the general direction of the garden. “He’s out back. Looking for that rank gimmer. He’s probably mounting a sheep or looking for a yak to freshen up his breath with.”

I assumed she was referring to her, still unknown, intended. Freddie and I took ourselves off in the direction of her wave.

We found Brad in the garden. “Hi,” he said you haven’t seen Kushnati, have you? There was a terrible row earlier on with Sarah. She wouldn’t dance for him. He starts in at her in that dialect of his. I couldn’t understand much of it. Hell, I’ve only got to chapter five on ‘Teach Yourself Kushtian’ and that only covers the version spoken in Kolin and the surroundings. She tries to explain and he isn’t having any. He drags her off. I assume he’s gone down to the dungeon to give her a taste of some of my toys so I think it’s better if he gets it out of his system. Anyway, I’ve just been down there and there’s no sign of them. Lauren said they came through this way but there’s no sign of them in the garden.”

We set off in different directions in search of Kushnati or Sarah or both.

I went towards the golf course. I was the first to find them. As I reached the first tee, there were sounds of raised voices coming from my right somewhere on the approach to the eighteenth green. As I crossed the green a bizarre sight confronted me in the deep bunker at the edge of the green. Standing in the base of the bunker clutching a spade and a jar of some kind was Kushnati. He had a disapproving scowl on his face. At his feet was all that could be seen of Sarah, her head. For a moment I thought he had sliced it off with the spade but the lack of blood and the fact that she was grunting animatedly from behind a ball gag told me I was wrong. She had been buried up to her neck in the bunker. In deference to the etiquette of the course, at least Kushnati had raked the sand where he had been digging; so the man wasn’t a complete barbarian.

There were two of the other slaves alongside her. Femke Toos and Greetje Van Bruijn, both wearing bikinis, were kneeling either side of her head. Kushnati gestured at the two girls. Femke unfastened Sarah’s gag. Toos leant forward with a drinking bottle.

“Oh, thank, you, thank you,” said Sarah trying to move her head sufficiently to take the drink. She sipped from the bottle and immediately spat the liquid out. “Oh! No, no, it’s horrible,” she yelled. Kushnati barked at the two girls urging them on. Femke grabbed hold of Sarah’s nose and pinched it shut. Unable to breath Sarah could do no other than gulp at the air and the drink that Toos was pouring into her mouth. Once the bottle was empty, Toos jammed the ball gag back into Sarah’s mouth. Kushnati waved them away. Sarah was shaking her head in discomfort. I watched as the two girls walked off, laughing together, no doubt remembering their discomforts in the dungeon as a result of Sarah’s initial refusal to betray her friend.

For Kushnati, Sarah’s discomfort was not yet enough. He upended the contents of the jar he was holding over her head. From the way that ants, flies, bees and wasps were immediately swarming about her, I guessed it was honey. I could understand Sarah’s gagged screams and yells. I thought I’d better fetch Brad.

I took both him and Clegg back to the bunker by the eighteenth green. Kushnati was still there staring down at Sarah who was gasping hysterically into her gag at the centre of a cloud of flies.

Brad tried to discuss things with Kushnati using his limited command of Kushtian. A great deal of gesticulation was going on from both of them. Eventually Kushnati calmed down and he and Brad dug Sarah out. She’d been tied into a ball, so the hole Kushanti had dug wasn’t as deep as I’d thought. For all of his seventy eight years, though, he was obviously fit.

Brad called into his mobile phone. Femke and Greetje were sent back out, this time with a brush and hose. Together they untied Sarah, hosed her down and brushed the sand from her. As they took off her gag, she retched and threw up whatever unpleasant drink, Kushnati had forced down her. Even from where I was standing I could smell it.

Brad was still remonstrating with Kushnati but eventually came across to explain. “Sorry about that guys,” he said. “Just a bit of a domestic. Sarah refused to dance for him, like I said. I’ve told him to use the stuff in the dungeon if he needs to but he doesn’t trust these new fangled things as he calls them. Things like this have been good enough for his tribe for at least fifteen centuries. He doesn’t see the point of changing to stuff that’s only five hundred years old as long as the old ways work.”

“No problem,” I said. “Is it, Freddie?”

“Hmm. What? Oh, errr, sure,” Freddie responded. He was obviously miles away, thinking that he really needed to find a way to talk to Kushnati to see if there were any other ideas he could pick up from him.

“I’m surprised at Sarah though, she’s normally quite obedient and she quite likes dancing, I thought.”

“It was the snakes,” said Brad. “She didn’t like the snakes. She’s scared of snakes.”

“Snakes?” I said.

“Yes, it’s the Pythork, a fertility dance from the hill tribes. Some people reckon it comes from the same roots as the Minoan religion. The dancer performs her dance with two live snakes and finishes with the ‘snake’ of the person she is performing the dance for. Kushnati was keen she should perform it for him.”

“Ah,” I said.

“Let’s go back inside,” said Brad. “I’ve told Sarah to clean herself up and then come and apologise. Properly. Poskalic,” he said to Kushnati.

We went back to the pool side bar. The Emir played the host and served us all drinks. Kushnati’s humour improved with each one that he downed.

Sarah reappeared. Kushnati’s first instinct to growl was interrupted by his sight of her in the costume of a court dancer. “Arrgn!” he exclaimed with approval.

Sarah stood at the edge of the room. She wore an elaborate head band around her brow. Coins dangled from it across her forehead. Her veil was fastened so that it looped down from the head band to cover her face and then draped down in long folds to be fastened at either side to heavy bracelets that circled her arms above the elbow.

Behind the half transparent veil it was clear that Sarah had followed the convention of the Kalinin’s own dancers and had gagged herself as a symbol of submission and of preparedness to accept punishment. She wore her slave collar of course and chains from it ran to cuffs on either wrist. Her breasts were bare; her pierced nipples carrying studs from each of which hung a heavy snake pendant. Around her hips was fastened a broad gilded belt. Her legs were hardly covered by the flimsy gauze of her harem trousers. Her feet were bare apart from fine silver chains that linked toe rings to anklets

She dropped to her knees and bowed her head to the floor. “Arrgn,” grunted Kushnati as she reached squeamishly into the two small round baskets on either side of Kushnati’s feet. She pulled out two small snakes and, holding them at arms length to either side of her, started to dance. I wasn’t sure how authentic the dance was. At first it looked more like Ibiza than Kolin but Kushnati didn’t seem to mind. Even Freddie watched approvingly. Sarah had obviously learned some belly dancing moves somewhere; spinning around, thrusting her hips forward and shimmering her naked stomach. The result was like something out of Shakira’s ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ video. Plus the snakes of course, though Sarah seemed to have found a way of blanking them out from her mind. It may not have been as Kushnati’s tribe would have performed it but you couldn’t fail to appreciate its erotic appeal. Kushnati was clapping along, providing her with a steady beat to guide her movements.

Brad leaned across to me as she finished her dance, falling to her knees and sliding across the floor to lie at Kushnati’s feet. She knelt up and lowered each snake in turn into its basket. The snakes seemed hapy to be released. She stretched her hands forward so that they finished in Kushnati’s lap. He grunted with satisfaction and pressed his own hands down on top of hers making it plain what she was to do. “He seems to have forgiven her,” Brad smiled as Sarah commenced her attentions on the third snake.

“So how are things going for the engagement?” I asked Brad.

“Well, Lauren still doesn’t know. But she’s been very good. You see she’s taken to wearing the chanoosh?”

“Chanoosh?” said Freddie.

“The long gown and veil of the femnyette, a ‘woman not yet a wife’ – that’s basically any unmarried girl of marriageable age. Kushnati has a very traditional view of things; nagged her that it was inappropriate for a high born woman to disport herself in the same way as slaves and concubines. In the hills only whores uncover their bodies. She got into that outfit a day or so ago. I think she’s only doing it to get a quiet life. She’s just hoping he’ll go away and she can have Sarah back. I think she’s quite missing having her to bully, but then she always did take after her mother.” Brad looked philosophical. “Still the engagement. Yeah, sure, that’s all fine. Kushnati is happy, aren’t you?”

“Arrgn!” Kushnati concurred enthusiastically grinning toothily and lifting his glass as Sarah worked away with her hands in his lap.

“Engagement? Who’s getting engaged?” We turned around to see the robed and veiled Lauren standing at the back of the room.

“Lauren,” said Brad, biting his lip. “I need to have a talk with you.”

She looked for a moment at Kushnati’s leering grin and then, realising what was intended, yelled “No! Noooo!” She ran back into the house.

Brad looked tired. “Daughters!” he exclaimed, shrugging his shoulders. “Can’t live with them, can’t sell them.”

“She looked pretty upset,” said Freddie, “in as much as you could tell behind that - what did you call it - chanoosh.”

“Yeah, She will be. I’ll let her cool down a bit. Sarah, why don’t you go up and help calm her down?”

Sarah reached up and removed her gag. “Yes, Emir,” She said obediently. Bowing first at Kushnati, then ourselves and then Brad, she went of in the direction that Lauren had taken.

Kushnati appeared unconcerned. He waved his glass indicating his desire for another drink if he wasn’t going to have Sarah to amuse him.

We stayed in the bar drinking with Kushnati for about an hour or so before Brad said. “I’d better go see how she’s getting along.” He was back moments later and beckoned to Clegg and myself. Kushnati was well under the influence. We slipped away, leaving him to doze.

As we left the bar, Brad hissed, “Now I really do need your help. It looks like she’s run off.”

Clegg gave a pained look. “Are you sure?” he said.

“I think so,” said Brad. “Her room’s empty. She isn’t anywhere else around the place.”

“What does Sarah say?” I asked.

“I can’t find her either.”

We followed Brad back up to Lauren’s room. There didn’t seem to be any sign of her. The chanoosh had been flung across the bed. The rest of the room was in what I imagined to be the normal muddle for any teenager. We all heard a quiet moan coming from Lauren’s wardrobe.

Brad pulled the door open. Inside Sarah, still in her dancer’s costume but bound and gagged with strips torn from Lauren’s bed sheets, was trying to free herself. Together we hauled her from the cupboard and cut the ties from her wrists and ankles. Brad un-knotted the cloth that was gagging her. She spat another wad of cloth from her mouth. It was a pair of panties; Lauren’s I assumed. “Oh, thank you,” she gasped. “It was Lauren. She attacked me. She put some clothes in a rucksack and pushed me in here.”

“Do you know where she’s gone?” Brad was concerned, though whether for his daughter’s well being or for his own problem with Kushnati I couldn’t tell. Sarah shook her head disconsolately. He turned to Freddie. “You have to help me with this,” he said. “Kushnati will be furious if we can’t go through with the engagement ceremony.”

Clegg looked thoughtful. “I hate doing this sort of off-the-cuff thing but I’ll do what I can,” he said. “Can you say what she was wearing?”

Brad looked down at the discarded chanoosh. “Well,” he said.

“A pair of white jeans and a dark sort of khaki tank top.” Sarah chipped in. “She had a grey sweater with her and some regular denim jeans that she put in her bag and the rucksack - that was a sort of muddy green colour.”

“Thank you, Sarah,” said Freddie, “that’s most helpful.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Sarah realising that she had almost certainly given Freddie essential information that would lead to Lauren’s recapture. She just hoped no one mentioned to Lauren who had told him.

Freddie and Brad wandered off, Clegg, chatting into his mobile phone. I felt a bit spare. Sarah was busily tidying up the torn up sheets and clearing the muddle left by Lauren. Seeing that the Emir had gone she turned to me. “Please,” she said, "please. You must get me my old job back. Get Harry to take me back, please.”

“You know I can’t do that, Sarah,” I said.

“But it’s awful here. All the other slaves hate me because of the Cindy thing and the torture room and Lauren treats me like dirt. Koresh is horrible. I mean he can’t help being old but he smells so and what’s worse he’s obsessed with sex but he can’t do anything about it. I had my hands in his lap then and it made no difference. It’ll be awful if I have to stay with him and Lauren. You have to take me away. Please!”

“Sarah, you’re a slave. You have to put up with it. Harry isn’t going to take you back if the Emir doesn’t want to release you. If you carry on like this the Emir will have you back in the dungeon for more training and you’ll find that difficult. I suggest you make the best of it. Work out how to keep Koresh amused. If you can do that he’ll be happy and Lauren will be too. Why don’t you go back down to the bar and see what you can do for him?”

Sarah looked at me for a moment and then looked as though she had decided that I was right. “Thank you for your advice, Sir,” she said. “I shall do just as you suggest.”

I watched as she rearranged her costume and fastened her veil back across her face. She gave a deep curtsy and headed off back downstairs. She didn’t know her rental to the Emir was going to finish soon. There didn’t seem to be any point in telling her.

Chapter 65: Looking For Lauren

Harry turned out a small team to go hunting Lauren. He’d been trying to bring on a new set of “cadets” as he called them. All girls under twenty, Harry thought they’d be helpful for collecting the increasing number of eighteen to twenty year olds we were being asked to find.

Four of them were sent off with a list of some of the places that the Emir knew Lauren used, a couple of photographs, and Sarah’s description of the way that Lauren was dressed. Harry told them just to report in when they’d found her but I could tell he wasn’t confident that they wouldn’t try to pick her up themselves.

I was with Harry when he got the phone call saying they’d found her. We hopped into his Land Rover and headed off through the Worcestershire countryside, following the directions from Harry’s team.

We turned off the main road into a car park beside a large metal framed building. “The Music Barn” the sign said. At two o’clock in the afternoon it was deserted.

A teenage girl, one of Harry’s team I assumed, skate boarded towards us across the car park. She skidded to a halt inches from the car, stood on the tail of her board and flipped it up to catch it in her hands as she dismounted. Harry opened the window on his door. “Yo!” she announced in greeting. Suddenly I was finding it difficult to remember that I was only about 10 years older than she was.

“So you found her?”


The new arrival obviously had as broad a vocabulary as her quarry.

“You wanna tell me about it? Or are we just going to applaud the skateboarding?”

She looked sulky. “She’s around the back.”

“OK, what do we need to do to pick her up?”

“Nah, don’t bother. We done that.”

“Jaycee, I said just find her. I said don’t touch her.”

“She’d have sussed us, the time you took. We took her easy. That’s what we’re supposed to be for isn’t it?”

“When I say so. Not just when you feel like it.”


She must be getting on famously with Lauren, I thought. Harry looked pensive. “OK, let’s talk about it later. Do we go with you or are you gonna bring her out here?”

Jaycee sucked on her teeth and looked back towards the building. She gestured with her head towards the side of the building, got back on her skateboard and headed off. We followed in the Land Rover. Beside the building was a overgrown track and at the back of that was a derelict brick hut, its windows without glass, its door hanging loosely from one hinge. Jaycee disappeared inside. Harry backed the Land Rover up to the hut and we followed her inside.

Jaycee was waiting for us with two of her pals. Sitting in the floor, wrists and ankles bound and with a rucksack pulled down over her head as a hood was a girl I assumed to be Lauren. She was only wearing one of her two trainers. Harry pointed down at Lauren’s bare foot. “Loose ends,” he said to Jaycee and her pals. “I’ve told you about that. We don’t leave loose ends. Where’s the other shoe?”

Jaycee laughed and pulled the rucksack clear of Lauren’s head, showing the other trainer jammed toe first into the poor girl’s mouth and tied there as a gag. Lauren shook her head trying to dislodge the shoe but without effect. Her complaints became progressively more excited and animal like as Harry grinned and congratulated Jaycee and the others.

Harry and I pulled Lauren to her feet. Together we picked her up and pushed her into the back of the Land Rover before wrapping her in a tarpaulin. “Thanks, Jaycee,” said Harry. “Good job.”

“Fair ‘nuff,” said the girl, evidently pleased by the compliment. “Hey is it true we snatched Hettie Van Voom?”

“Yeah, sure. Part of the same job.”

“Excellent!” said Jaycee. “Sorry I missed that one. She is just sooo cool. Do we get to prep her?”

“Sorry, Jaycee, she’s being delivered today.” Jaycee looked disappointed. Comparing her pale, spotty, complexion, ratted hair, ripped jeans and cropped t-top with Hettie’s immaculate appearance she seemed like an unlikely admirer but this business throws up some strange people. Jaycee and her pals grabbed their skateboards and piled into the back of the Land Rover around the helpless Lauren. We dropped them off at the railway station and headed off with Lauren towards the castle.

As we drove the Land Rover back, with Lauren secure in the back under a tarpaulin, I chatted with Harry about Sarah and her problems. As I suspected he wasn’t interested in doing anything for her, Cindy was proving to be just as useful. I asked him about Tricia. She’d been bending my ear about taking a lead role on a collection. Harry was blunt. “She’ll get to go lead when I think she’s ready. You wouldn’t want any different would you?”

“Nuhuh,” I said. “Your call is good enough for me.” And it was. If Harry didn’t think she was ready then it wouldn’t be good for the collection and it wouldn’t be good for Tricia either. Anyway I wasn’t about to put my neck out for her with Harry.

Lauren started to kick up a fuss in the back. The trainer gag kept the noise down but it was still irritating. “Fancy some music?” said Harry. I nodded. He pushed the on switch on the Land Rover’s CD player. Lead Zeppelin poured out of the speakers. It drowned out Lauren’s grunting but that was about all that could be said for it. My taste goes more for Northern Soul.

We drove up to the Emir’s place. He was waiting at the door. Harry and I carried Lauren, helpless, kicking and wrapped in the tarpaulin, inside.

Brad helped us to get her untied. Even after we took the gag off her she stayed silent.

“Lauren, we need to discuss this,” said Brad. Lauren took no notice. He snipped through the plastic ties around her ankles and her wrists. Lauren sat on the floor hunched up and scowling at her father. “Come on,” Brad said, gripping Lauren’s arm and helping her to her feet. “Let’s go somewhere quieter.” He turned to Harry and me. “Thanks guys,” he said. “Lauren and I need to chat. Why don’t you get yourselves a beer, Freddie and Kushnati are in the bar.”

I spent about half an hour with Kushnati, Clegg, and Harry but it was soon obvious that Kushnati was getting restless waiting for the return of his fiancée to be. I agreed to look for Brad and Lauren.

I bumped into one of Brad’s guards in the corridor. He said they were down in the dungeon but Brad didn’t want to be interrupted. I slipped into a gallery that looked down into the dungeon to wait for an opportunity to get them to come back to the bar. Lauren was over at one side, swinging her legs under the chair she was sitting on. Brad was dividing his attention between talking to his daughter and tightening straps that were holding Femke onto the rack. Alongside them Greetje had been tied to the rim of the great wooden wheel. Both Femke and Greetje were moaning in fear.

“Why wouldn’t you talk to me?” Brad was asking his daughter.

“He’s gross. He’s old and he’s gross. How could you think I’ll marry him?”

“Lauren, sometimes it’s a good idea to take a little bit of pain for a greater good.” Brad turned his attentions to Greetje, tightening her straps. “Like these ladies are going to discover for tormenting Sarah.”

“I won’t do it, Dad.”

“Think about it. You’ll be the wife of a council member; practically royalty. OK, Kolin isn’t the greatest place on the planet but you can still get MTV there. You’d have your own slaves; a councillor’s wife wouldn’t be expected to lift a finger. Beside’s how long can he live?” Brad tugged on the bar that started to stretch Femke on the rack. “You shouldn’t have been quite so willing to amuse Mr Koresh, Femke dear,” he said. “I think you should have come to find me.” Femke gasped as the rack began to pull against her arms and legs. Brad turned back to Lauren. “But if you won’t go…”

Lauren watched fascinated as Femke tried to pull against the effects of the rack. Brad went across to Greetje and started to winch the wheel she was tied to clear of the floor. Her squeals became louder with each creak of the winch and clank of the chain. As her belly lifted from the floor and she took the weight of her body on the straps around her wrists and ankles she gave out a deep groan.

“My own slaves?” Lauren asked. “Couldn’t I do that here? I mean I’m old enough to have my own and you’ve let me use Sarah.”

“It’s different here, Lauren. Or back in the States. There’s too many people who think that sort of thing is primitive and – what did you call Kushnati – gross. I can only do it because of my diplomatic immunity and a lot of money and help from Clegg. Even then, I’m not sure we’re going to be able to keep it going. Sure you could go on borrowing slaves but it would be a long time before you could really have your own here.” Femke and Greetje were both groaning. Lauren got up from the seat and wandered across to look at them more closely.

“But he is gross. I mean the smell. And, well, in bed?”

“From what I hear the Emir won’t be bothering you much in the bedroom. You could probably persuade him to let you have one of the young tribesmen to keep you amused. He’s happy with the occasional grope and plenty of beer. And if you had your own slave to divert him….”

“You’d let me have one? As my own for real slave? Really Dad?”

Brad leant on the lever of Femke’s rack again, she yelled. Lauren’s eyes were brighter than ever. “Why not? If it would help. Not Sarah, though, she’s going back to Clegg. Have one of the others.” Greetje groaned and wriggled setting the wheel swinging on its supporting chain.

“Oh Dad!” Lauren exclaimed and ran forward, throwing her arms around his neck. She gave him one kiss after another.

“Hey,” he said. “Am I forgiven then?”

“I’ll do it,” said Lauren.

“Kushnati wanted to go through the formalities today, you know.”

“Yeah, I guessed,” said Lauren. “Well, why not? Unless you want to play with these some more?” She gestured at Femke and Greetje. “Ooo, I couldn’t have these two could I?”

“Why not?” said Brad. Lauren clapped her hands in delight. “I’ll get one of the guards to let them down.” Femke and Greetje moaned begging to be freed but still dreading their fate at the hands of Lauren.

“Let me get dressed, though,” said Lauren. “I want to do it properly. I’ve looked it up. I’m supposed to wear a chanoosh. I intend to be a proper Kushtian councillor’s wife.”

“That’s wonderful, Lauren,” Brad said.

“No problem,” Lauren said with a giggle. “Have you any idea what some of those ladies get up to?”

I headed back to the bar without bothering Brad. It was obvious that they’d be along shortly. We just had time to get Kushnati’s present for Brad off of the van and stowed in the next room before Brad reappeared, leading his daughter by the hand. Clad in her chanoosh, she presented a perfect picture of Kushtian submissive womanhood with her eyes cast to the floor and her hands clasped modestly in front of her.

“Mr Koresh,” Brad said. “I believe you have something to say.”

Kushnati got to his feet unsteadily. He’d been drinking consistently for quite a while. He belched. He spoke carefully, evidently having memorised the English words. “Emir, I wish to take your daughter as my wife.”

“Head Koresh,” Brad responded with equal formality. He brought out a set of ceremonial manacles joined by a heavy chain. From where I was standing they looked as though they were made of gold. I later found out that they were. “Take my daughter as your wife,” he said as he fastened first Laurens’ left wrist and then her right. “Care for her as your favourite horse or hawk.” He took Laurens hand and brought it together with Kushnati’s gnarled fingers. “Let everyone here witness that this girl gives no word against this match.” Lauren could have been gagged beneath the veil of the chanoosh but in fact she wasn’t.

She hugged her father and then hugged Kushnati, saying, “I look forward to becoming your wife, Head Koresh.”

Kushnati grunted his appreciation. “Your daughter, my wife,” he said. He turned to Brad. “Emir, please accept this gift as a token of my esteem for your daughter.” He clapped his hands. Two of Brad’s guards emerged from the next room pushing a large white box on a trolley. The box was tied with a huge purple satin ribbon and bow. Brad spoke his thanks to Kushnati and tugged at the ribbon. It fell loose. Lifting the lid of the box, Brad saw immediately what was inside. Laid out, full length, and wedged onto the box by cream, silk-covered, packing was Hettie Van Voom.

Brad was evidently delighted. “Head Koresh,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed. A remarkable gift indeed. Thaknarish. Thank you. Thaknarish.” The two guards helped get Hettie from the box. Kushnati smiled. “Arrgn,” he said. “Please enjoy this. Think of it not as losing a daughter but gaining a woman.”

Hettie was drugged. Not unconscious but with only limited awareness of her surroundings. She presented a perfect, fetishised, female image. She wore a purple silk corset that exactly matched the ribbon of the box, long silk gloves that stretched over her elbows, stilt heeled platform soled shoes in a glossy patent leather, a narrow velvet band around her throat and a large ball gag in her mouth; all in the same purple. As she was helped to her feet, Brad was visibly delighted by what he saw. The corset cinched her waist, the combination of her well developed breasts and the engineering of the bra she wore gave her a cleavage that invited close inspection. Her legs, clad in the finest silk stockings, were made more shapely by the height of her heels.

Freddie, impressed as ever by the technologies developed by Rick’s team, stepped forward. “Brad,” he said, “you’ll like this.” He held up a small phial of liquid.” This allows you to use your new slave as a doll. When she is dosed with this, you can simply position her as you wish and she will stay in place.” He walked up to Hettie, carefully repositioning her, bending her at the knees and so her backside stuck out. He moved her arms so that one was above her head apparently waving while the other pressed a finger to her pursed lips. She stood motionless, holding the position.

“Fantastic,” said Brad, “Better & better.”

From the ways that Hettie’s eyes were flickering it was clear that she was aware of what was happening but had no control over her movements.

Sarah was watching the proceedings from the back of the room. She’d been brought in wearing the same costume that she had worn to dance for Kushnati. “Isn’t it romantic,” she said to me. “I would never have thought that Lauren would agree to this but it just goes to show.”

I grunted in a noncommittal way.

“I can’t imagine what persuaded her to go through with this and to go to Kushtia. But I’ll be honest,” she dropped her voice to a whisper, “I’m not sorry to see her go. I’m not sure who was worse, her or Kushnati.”

I didn’t say anything. I was pretty sure we’d have something disagreeable lined up for her as soon as the engagement ceremony was finished.

The Emir and Kushnati were embracing. Lauren was standing quietly by. She leant across to her father and whispered something to him. He listened and then beckoned Sarah to join them. As she reached them he took her wrists and clipped her shackles to her collar. Unable to use her hands she was helpless to prevent Lauren pulling aside her Sarah’s veil to allow her to push one of Harry’s gel gags into her mouth. In a moment the expanding gel had silenced her. I saw Brad explaining something to Kushnati as Lauren clipped a leash to Femke and Greetje’s collars. Brad and Kushnati walked towards me together with Lauren dragging her newly acquired slaves. As they passed me they gave me a pleading look and a gagged moan. Brad beckoned me to follow.

At the back of the house, the transport crates were waiting for Femke and Toos. Beside it there were a pair of small wooden trestles. As we reached it, Brad took Femke and bent her forward over the first wooden trestle, clipping a short length of chain to her collar so that she was held, head down, her backside in the air. He walked behind her and fastened her ankle cuffs to the legs of the trestle, fixing her helpless and exposed.

With Femke fixed in place, Greetje was treated the same way. Sarah emerged from the house carrying a small metal bucket on a tripod stand. I recognised it from the dungeon. From the care she took and the way the air was shimmering above the bucket, it was obviously hot. As she walked by me I could see that the bucket contained red hot coals. She put it down beside Femke and went back into the house. “Kushnati,” Brad was saying. “I know that these girls are to be your wife’s slaves but of course they must carry your mark as part of your household.”

Lauren tried to interrupt. “Shouldn’t they have a mark for me?” Femke was trying to struggle free from the trestle.

Kushnati laughed, evidently amused by the girl’s naivety. “No,” said her father. “It’s all rather complicated, Kushtian laws of property and all that. Don’t worry about it.”

Sarah retuned carrying a velvet cushion. As she got to the group, Brad reached out and picked a long handled device from the cushion. He plunged the end of it into the bucket of hot coals. The two Dutch girls, guessing what was about to happen, became still more animated in their attempts to free themselves.

The gag was not sufficient to silence the piercing scream as Brad pressed the red hot iron against Femke’s left buttock. It was loud enough to throw a crowd of rooks into the sky from a nearby line of trees, cawing in response. The hiss of scorching flesh could still be heard as the noise of the rooks and Femke’s gagged whimperings fell away. Brad pulled the brand away causing Femke to scream again and leaving the raw pattern of two interlocked K’s, for Kushnati Koresh, etched into her buttock. The whole thing was repeated with Greetje. At the end the smell of burnt flesh and the gagged screams of the girls filled the air around them. Brad tossed the brand back into the bucket of coals and reached forward to shake Kushnati’s hand.

“Arrgn” the chief said in acceptance and unfastened the two from their trestles to lead them staggering in pain towards the transport crate. Kushnati, Lauren, Femke and Greetje were ready for their journey to Kushtia. For Femke and Greetje, at least the sedative they were given for their journey would have eased the pain of their brands.

Elly took Sarah to one side. “You’re coming back to the Prep Centre,” she said. In spite of her gag Sarah’s gratitude was plain.

“I’d wait until you get there before you are too effusive in your thanks,” she said. “We’ve got some interesting programmes to put you through.” I wasn’t sure how well Sarah would respond but Elly, Freddy and I had agreed that it was probably the best step for her.

Brad caught up with me before I left.

“Well, that all seemed to work out,” I said.

“Yes, fine, Brad responded. “Thanks.”

“You said you wanted to talk about the National Geographic article.”

“Oh, yes. Look, you were right with your advice, like I said. The fuss died away pretty quickly. There was some sensational coverage in the press but like you said, they’ve got bored and moved on. The odd thing is that some other people haven’t. Here.” He turned to his desk and pulled a wad of papers from it. “These are copies of some of them,” he said. “The originals have gone back to the Foreign Office in Kolin. There are more. All pretty much the same.”

I looked at the papers. Letters, perhaps twenty or thirty, all of them from women all saying pretty much the same thing. Kushtia sounded like an ideal society, one in which women were valued as women. Was there any opportunity for a woman to come and live in Kushtia as a Kushtian woman? How could a woman become a Kushtian bride? Was it possible to work in Kushtia?

I looked at the addresses; UK, France, Germany, USA; all were represented.

“It looks like you’ll be able to have your pick,” I said. “You won’t be needing us to pick up slaves if they are volunteering.”

“Not the same thing, Larry, as well you know. But we are going to work on some of this. We’re thinking about running a sort of cultural experience programme – you know ‘learn something of this very different society’. Just the sort of thing for gap year students.” Brad gave a leer that would have been worthy of his new son in law. “I thought you ought to know though, just in case you heard about it and thought someone else was pooping in your patch.”

“Thanks Brad,” I said. “I’m sure there’s no problem from our side. Let us know if you need any help.”

“I will, Larry, don’t worry,” he said and I left him.

I was chatting to Clegg later on. I told him about the “cultural experience programme”. He looked a bit disbelieving at first and then seemed to think about it. He didn’t say anything that gave away his views on it. “Plus I overheard Brad say something that might interest you,” I said. “He seemed to think there might be some problems with keeping his operation here in the UK going.”

Clegg gave a quiet smile. “I wondered how long it would take for it to get back to him,” he said. "I’ve been having some words with the Kalinin. Brad’s great fun and he’s a good customer but, well, discreet isn’t a word that he uses much. I’ve been worried that he might start attracting attention.”

“How come now?”

“Well, normally it wouldn’t be a problem; there’d be a few folk for the Kushtian’s to pay off and no one would be bothered. It’s just that some of Elly’s contacts suggest that the police and security services are getting a bit more concerned lately about the trafficking of women for sex. Planning some sort of crack down.”

“That’ll be more of a problem for us than Brad, won’t it”

Freddie shook his head. “No, it’s not our side of it that they are interested in. They don’t believe there’s any sort of export traffic, they think it’s all the other way. They’re much more concerned about imports.”

“The Treasury worried about the balance of trade deficit again?” I joked.

Freddie smiled. “No, no. It’s much more the fact that Johnny Foreigner might be disrupting the status quo in the sex industry. Might even be exposing the lower classes to it and that would never do! Tsk, tsk!” He was grinning. I’d come to understand that Freddie didn’t much care for the way the British establishment kept its pleasures to itself. “So they’re out looking for foreign interests that might be part of a sex slave trafficking network.”

“And the castle would fall into that category?”

“Mmm,” said Freddie. “I think it might. Too conspicuous. And in the wrong place. Out in the countryside like that, attracts too much attention. If you want to run something like that you need to put it where no one will notice. Somewhere busy, somewhere crowded.”

“Like the Prep Centre?”

“Exactly. Anyway the Kalinin was pretty understanding. He’s not seen much in the way of results from Brad’s operation so he’s going to get the Trade Minister to recall him.”

I finally managed to talk to Freddie about my idea for a “voluntary slave” operation. I’d been thinking about it for a while. The experiences with Kelly had given me the idea in the first place and the Kushtian experience following the article in National Geographic seemed to indicate that there might be something in it.

Freddie looked as though he was taking it on board but it’s always hard to tell with him. He said he’d think about it. I reckoned that meant I hadn’t made a good enough case.

Chapter 66: Room Service

“The London Garrick, Drury Lane,” Kelly’s text had said.

I’d spent half an hour wandering around the public areas and worked out a plan for a bit of fun. It wasn’t a big place, there was the usual lobby, stairs up, lifts, a couple of phone booths. Off to the right, a small bar. I sat in a coffee shop across the road and watched her arrive, trundling her case in through the front door. I gave her time to check in.

“Meet you for a drink?” I texted. “7:30 in the bar?”

“Fine,” she came back. “CU. Sounds tame though!!”

I looked at my watch. It was only five. I had plenty of time to pick up some things. I flagged down a cab. “Brewer Street,” I said. I knew a few places in Soho where I might get what I wanted.

I got back to the hotel just after half past seven. Kelly was sure to be in the bar. The lobby was pretty quiet. I walked around to an alcove just behind the phone booths and sat down with the small back pack with my toys on my lap. I phoned the hotel on my mobile. “I’d like to talk to Miss Kelly Rollins I’m supposed to be meeting her in the bar.”

“If you’ll hold on, I’ll find her for you,” the receptionist said helpfully.

A few moments later I heard a voice saying, “The courtesy phones are over their Miss Rollins, I’ll put the call through on the far one.” Very convenient, I thought. I heard Kelly’s voice as she picked up the courtesy phone. “Hello?” she said. “Who’s there?”

“Go to the lift,” I said quietly but insistently. “Don’t look around.” I heard her gulp as she put down the phone.

As she walked up to the lift I put my bag over my shoulder and stepped up close behind her. I had a knife hidden in the palm of my hand. I let her feel it prick against her back. She gave a whimper. “Let’s go upstairs,” I said, quietly. I let her call the lift, standing close behind her all the time. The doors slid open three people got out and brushed past us, I let her feel the knife again, put my other hand on her back and guided her forward into the empty lift. She pushed the button for her floor. We rode up, her facing the doors, me close behind her. The lift didn’t stop until we reached the fifth. Kelly led the way, still at knife point along the corridor. We passed a service cart and a couple of housemaids. I gave her a prick as we went by to remind her to behave.

We reached her room. She took out her key card and slipped it into the slot. As the green light came on, I grabbed the door handle, wrenched it open and pushed her through. She tripped on the door sill as she went in and fell down, sprawling across the floor of the room.

“Stay down there,” I hissed, “and get on your face. Put your hands behind your head. I grabbed the ‘do not disturb’ sign from the door handle, hung it on the outside and pushed the door shut. I tipped out my bag of toys onto the floor beside Kelly and started by pulling the ski mask over my face. Of course she knew it was me but it seemed more fun like that. Then came the gag, a thick rubber plug that I pushed between her lips and past her teeth into her mouth. The plug was held on a broad leather strap that covered almost the whole of the lower half of her face. She grunted as I fastened the buckle to hold it in place, pushing the plug deep into her mouth. I pulled her wrists down behind her, not being too gentle. A pair of leather cuffs linked by a short chain served to keep them locked together behind her back.

I rolled her over. I could see her eyes were already bright with arousal. She was breathing heavily, through her nose, hmmphing softly behind the gag.

I took some time to look her over. I guess she’d come straight from what ever she’d been doing - she looked like she was dressed for work. She was wearing a fairly plain grey dress with a pattern of small flowers on it. Some sort of silky material. I’m no expert. Dark grey tights. Grey suede shoes. Low heels, nothing flash. She was obviously enjoying me looking her over from behind the mask, she grunted and wriggled trying her wrists against the cuffs. I put out a hand to cup one of her breasts. She tried to pull away, not keen to let her assailant take advantage of her.

I took that as a cue. There was a seam running down the front of the dress. I grabbed either side of her v-neckline and tugged. The stitches parted easily enough. She was squealing in distress now. I guess I should have checked to see if she had another dress with her but it was too late. It ripped clean through to the hem. I pushed aside the two torn halves. She might have been mad but her nipples were perking up nicely beneath the silk of her grey bra.

That was my next target. I took the knife and sliced through the material between the two cups, exposing her breasts. I’d bought a couple of nipple clamps and took this opportunity to clip them in place. She whimpered as I tightened them.

I looked down at her knickers, a damp stain was spreading from her crotch. I pulled down her tights, smiling at the way her soaking cunt signalled her excitement. I reached into my bag and pulled out the small vibrator I’d acquired. I pushed it in, turned it on and pulled her pants and tights back up. She was wriggling more than ever now. I ripped a strip of material from her dress, gripped her ankles in one hand and tied them together. Now she was wriggling more than ever before; grunting with pleasure and frustration into her gag.

“I fancy a drink,” I said. She gave a squeal. I picked up the room’s key card and headed to the door. I pulled off my mask before I went outside. I figured it wasn’t too smart to appear in the corridor like that.

I didn’t take too long but I always think it’s a shame to hurry a beer – especially at London hotel prices. When I got back Kelly was pretty distracted. She whimpered as I stripped off everything except the ski mask. She yelped as I took off her nipple clamps, groaned as I pulled the vibrator from her and bucked her body as I took my cock and fucked her.

As the two of us came, I was pleased that she had the gag on. There’s such a thing as not disturbing the other guests, I feel.

Afterwards we lay together, still coupled but motionless; sweating but silent. She shook her head and grunted. I took it that she’d like the gag taken off and obliged.

“Bastard, bastard, bastard,” she smiled. “Where did you get that stuff? Or were you doing more at the Fetish Fair than you owned up to?”

“Kelly, we’re less than a mile from the kinkiest shops in London.”

“Oh, yes. I was forgetting. In which case you were very restrained.”

“I thought you were the one that was restrained,” I said with a smirk.

“Whips and chains are fine but lay off the jokes!” she said laughing. “Now are you going to take these cuffs off me and buy me a drink?”

“Sure, if you’ve got something else to wear.” She nodded. I freed her and we each of us showered. She pulled on a sweater and pair of slacks, not bothering with underwear.

“You’re going to have to take me shopping,” she said, “you’re wrecking my wardrobe.”

“No problem,” I said, “I saw some very fetching fashions in Brewer Street.”

“I was thinking something other than PVC, rubber or leather,” she said. “Now come on, are we going to have that drink?”

We headed on down to the bar. It was quiet. We were the only people there apart from a barman who seemed more interested in the football match going showing on the TV screen that hung down in one corner of the room. We got our drinks and made ourselves comfortable in one corner. Kelly curled up on the couch, tucking her legs underneath her. She had a relaxed air about her, smiling, her hair loose, her V-necked sweater clinging precariously to one shoulder. I just about managed to keep my hands off her.

“This is a lot of fun, Larry,” she said. I sensed there was a ‘but’ coming. “But.”

We had a long chat. It was clear that while she enjoyed what we got up to, she didn’t like the way it was working; - the two of us just fetching up occasionally as and when one or the other felt like some pervy sex. She thought she was looking for something more permanent; just as much oriented to the world of BDSM, but just more permanent.

I could see ways in which I could make it very permanent indeed for her, but I didn’t think that would be fair. Besides with Sukie and Rachel to worry about I couldn’t see how I could make a bigger commitment to Kelly, right now.

The evening ended up with one of those tense, quiet, times. Each of us was staring into our drink. She had shredded a paper napkin into tiny strips in the ashtray.

“I’m sorry, Kelly,” I started, “It’s not…”

“If you dare say, ‘its not you it’s me’ then I swear I will take you upstairs and use those cuffs and ball gag on you.” She managed a grin and I smiled back.

“You’re right,” I said. “Look, I can’t step up to what you need right now. Maybe in the future. Who knows? I enjoy what we do. A lot. But I’m not ready to go any further right now. I’m sorry if you think I’ve been unfair.”

She shook her head. “No, Larry, no. I guess I’ve just had a few too many dishonest relationships and the stuff we get up to; well, I’d just like to be doing that every night. Still, one of the girls from the Munch wrote off to the Kushtian Embassy – wants to go out there as a concubine, can you believe? I couldn’t do that. So I can hardly complain, can I?”

I shrugged. I was puzzled by the reference to the Kushtian’s but then I remembered the letters that Brad had shown me. We were both looking glum.

She drained the last of her drink. “Oh, come on,” she said. “I’m not leaving things like this.”

“I guess the convention is that I say, ‘we can still be friends, right?’ isn’t it?”

“Yepp. And I say, ‘of course, we’re both grown up’ don’t I?” There was a sparkle in her eyes.

“We can still be friends, right?” I said.

She looked at me for a moment. “No,” she said. I looked puzzled for a moment. “But you can still come around and fuck me at gun point though.” She laughed.

“I’ve only got the knife, at the moment,” I said smiling.

“That’ll do,” she said, getting to her feet. We both laughed and headed for the lift. If it was going to be the last time at least we would make the best of it.

Chapter 67: Programme Development

When I got back to the Centre, Sukie was busy getting the evening meal ready. She said Rachel was down in the programme training room so I thought I’d go and see how she was getting on.

As I arrived, she was just finishing her session. Naked, she was sitting up on one of the two leather covered couches with a broad grin on her face.

Rachel waved as she saw me through the window of the treatment room and went back to disconnecting herself from the wires that both delivered the stimuli and monitored her response.

She hopped down from the couch as I went through the door. She ran across to me and threw her arms around me. “Mmm,” she said. “You came back. Can we play now?”

“Rachel, you just finished a programme session,” I said with a grin. “You should have had enough pleasure for now!”

“Enough?” she said with a smile on her face. “I’m not sure I know that word. What else can I do, then?”

I had a few projects in mind for her. We chatted about them for a while - she sat on the couch sucking provocatively on a pale lemon dildo; me standing by, still in my office suit. By the end of our talk she had at least been distracted from the dildo by the idea of pleasing me by getting some writing done. Mind you it had been a close run thing. It had been hard to keep my mind on what I wanted to get done watching her as she slid the yellow plastic dildo backwards and forwards between her lips as I talked through what I wanted. In the end we both laughed. She pulled on one of the loose smocks that she wore most of the time now, smiled and headed off in search of her lap top.

The Doc appeared just as Rachel was leaving. Rachel smiled at her and disappeared. “She seems OK,” I said to the Doc.

She nodded, cautiously. “Yes, she seems to have recovered. As long as she avoids the substances that trigger the attacks she should be all right. And she’s got back into the programme. Her responses are every bit as good as they were before the attack, about the same as the others too.”

“Is that what you’d expect? I mean isn’t there a difference a willing participant and one that is – well – forced?”

“She’s doing fine. There is a difference although it’s not as much as you might think. Brian’s family were hardly leaping at the opportunity to take part but they all progressed at about the same rate as Rachel, the mother and sister especially. The two daughters took longer to get started but after the initial resistance they soon caught up. With Rachel she’s been getting on fine allowing for the time out.”

Harry put his head around the door. “Can I have a word?” he said. The Doc waved and went out.

“Sure,” I said. “What is it?”

“There’s a couple of things. Firstly, Sarah, I’m a bit worried that she got off lightly over the whole Cindy thing. I want to make sure she really doesn’t forget that she was out of order on that.”

“Of course. She’s finished with the current round of training sessions so it won’t hurt if you need to have access to her for a few weeks.”

“Great, thanks,” Harry said.

“What was the other thing?”

Harry looked a bit bashful. “Umm, you’re going to think this is a bit odd,” he said. “Do you and Kelly want to go out on a date?”

“A date?”

“Yeah. You remember that barmaid I’d picked up with?” I nodded. “Well she sort of says, ‘how come I never get to meet any of your friends, and….’ You know how it is.”

“Wouldn’t it be better if I brought one of the girls from here? Tricia maybe,” then I remembered our last evening together, it hadn’t been a great pleasure for either of us, “Or Eva?”

“Maybe. I ‘d just thought Kelly sounded pretty normal from what you’d said and maybe it would work?”

“Well, I could have a word with her but its not really a ‘going on dates’ sort of relationship.” Harry looked puzzled. “Its more a ‘going in the bedroom and shagging ourselves stupid’ sort of relationship.”

“Oh,” said Harry. I guess I was a bit unfair. There wasn’t much else he could say.

“Look, I really don’t think it would be a good idea with Kelly. Let’s try and set something up with Tricia .She’s looking for a way to get into your good books, isn’t she?” Harry nodded. “She’s been nagging me about trying to get a lead on an operation, I can’t imagine she hasn’t been trying to butter you up as well.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah. Still she’s going to get her chance so maybe she’ll back off a bit. We could try that if you think it’ll work.”

“Sure Harry,“ I said. “Tricia will be fine about it.” Leastways, I hoped she would. “And I’ll send Sarah up to see you about the other stuff.”

“Thanks,” said Harry, “and don’t be too gentle with her. I want to make an impression.”

I went and found Sarah. She was sitting in one of the training rooms going through some of the material for the next training programme. She looked up as I came in. “Hi, Larry,” she said brightly. “Anything I can do?”

“Yes,” I said coldly. “You can remember your position here. And you can get stripped off.”

“What?” she asked, puzzled by my manner.

“You heard,” I said. Evidently dismayed, she started to strip off her blouse and skirt. I turned towards her. “Quicker than that, #06.085,” I snapped using Sarah’s slave number.

Sarah looked startled. “Sorry, Sir,” she said, quickly finishing her task.

“Right,” I said. “Over by the wall. Hands on your head. Quick!” Sarah, surprised by my brusqueness, complied. I picked up the phone, to call a guard. “Can you come and take this one down to the cells, please. And you’d better bring restraints.”

When they arrived, they were pretty rough with her. Not realising quite what was happening, Sarah struggled at first as they grabbed her arms, wrestling her to her knees.

“Please, you don’t need to do this!” she was shaking her head as they dragged her arms down. She was forced into a heavy canvas straight jacket, her arms crossed across her body and then strapped down so that she couldn’t move. A strap passed down between her legs and up between her buttocks to fasten to the back of the jacket. Sarah squealed as they jerked the strap tight. One of the guards held a plug gag out towards me. I nodded.

“No!” yelped Sarah. “Noooo ooughhgghm.” The guard pushed the plug gag home, filling her mouth and fixing it in place with straps behind her head. Sarah was shaking her head in confusion.

“Put her on a short chain in one of the cells,” I said. I knew what that would mean – she wouldn’t be able to move for more than a foot. “She’ll stay that way until her case is reviewed.” Sarah, puzzled by her change of fortunes, was led away.

I was set to spend a very agreeable evening with Sukie and Rachel. Normally Sukie did most of the domestic stuff around the flat but after dinner, Rachel insisted that she was going to clear things away and told Sukie and me to go and relax.

By the time she came back, Sukie and I were sprawled on the couch, Sam Cooke on the stereo. Rachell was carrying a tray, she knelt down beside us. “I’m the help, tonight,” she said, passing a wine glass to Sukie and then to me. She opened the bottle and poured us each a glass. She sat back on her heels, smiling, as together we toasted her in thanks.

Our amusements were interrupted by a telephone call. It was Steve Glennis. “Larry,” he called. “Hope I’m not disturbing you.”

I grunted. “No problem, Steve,” I said.

He took the hint. “I’ll keep it short,” he said. “I just wanted to say that this Lady M is one nice piece. You know what it’s like here on the Island. She’s taken over running the household for me, got the other slaves running around like she’s the lady of the manor.”

“I guess she is,” I responded. “How’s the carriage driving?”

“First class. I’d have her over to Meadowlands for the Hambletonian if I could.”

“I’m sure she’d pass muster but there might be some comment about what was between the shafts,” I said, thinking back to the pony girls that Steve kept in his stables.

Even over the phone I could hear Steve’s wry chuckle. “Yes but she’s having a good effect on the stock. You should have seen her down in the training ring this morning putting one of them through her paces on the lunge rein.”

From what I’d seen of Lady M, the thought of her in tight jodhpurs and riding boots was an agreeable one. “I’d have liked to have seen that,” I said.

“Yeah. Well, you need to come over some time, see how the markets are developing over here, that sort of thing.”

“Uhhuh,” I said, intrigued by where this might lead. “Let me think about when I could get over, Steve,” I said.

“OK,” said Steve. “Don’t leave it too long though.”

Chapter 68: Russian Roulette

Steve’s idea sounded attractive. I could see that I could free up some time in a couple of weeks or so but I wasn’t sure whether I could justify the trip. I thought I’d talk to Freddie about it first.

If I had thought that Tricia getting her chance as a lead collector would improve her humour I was mistaken. She’d been as pleased as anything when she told me that Harry had said she could finally run lead on a collection. She’d been nagging him (and me) for what seemed like months. But now she seemed less than happy with the challenge.

“Look, just let me get on with it, will you?” Tricia wasn’t in the best of moods. I’d made the mistake of offering some unsolicited advice and I was getting my ears bent for my trouble. I knew she wanted to make a good showing but I’d thought it might help if we discussed it. Wrong, evidently.

“OK, OK,” I said. “I didn’t mean to interfere, I just….”

“Well, just don’t," she growled and headed off to the other end of the office.

She was still simmering when I stopped by her desk later that afternoon. “Larry,” she said, “I’m doing this myself. I don’t need your help and I don’t want to talk about it. You stick to your account management and marketing and I’ll stick to what I’m good at. I don’t tell you how to run the clients so don’t tell me how to plan a pick up.”

“Sure,” I said, “Look I don’t want to argue about this. Why don’t we grab a drink later?”

She shook her head. “Nuh-uh,” she grunted turning back to her pile of research reports, “I’m going to be busy. I just don’t want to be distracted right now.”

Cindy came teetering over on high heels so sharp you wanted to keep your feet out of the way of hers and put another pile of reports down on Tricia’s desk. “See what I have to go through,” Tricia growled, to no one in particular, “and he wants to go for a drink.”

I left her to it feeling more than a bit aggrieved. As I went out I passed Sarah. Harry had decided that she needed a few weeks on menial tasks just to remind her of her real status. They’d put her in an ill fitting overall, shackles on her ankles and wrists, plug gag in her mouth. Dressed like that she was available for any dismal task hat was needed around the office. As I left she was on her knees with a scrubbing brush, cleaning up some spilled coffee under one of the desks. She sat back on her heels as I went by but suddenly realised she was supposed not to look up and cast her eyes down again. She set back to her scrubbing. Harry’s approach was obviously having an impact.

I didn’t see Tricia for a couple of days but I did bump into Eva in the canteen. “How did Tricia’s pick up go?” I asked her.

“OK, I guess for a first time. The target’s coming into reception just about now, do you want to see?”

Well, Tricia hadn’t asked me but I was interested so I thought I’d go look.

Tricia turned up driving a regular Clegg Meat Products truck. She had one of the other girls up front with her. The two of them were grinning as they climbed down from the truck’s cab. “Job done,” Tricia called out, more for Eva’s benefit than for mine, I felt. “One very talented mathematician to help out Sebastian’s team, cleanly lifted and stowed in the back. Brought her lap top along too, so no doubt there’s lots of useful research stuff on there she’ll be able to carry on working with.”

Eva opened up the back of the truck. Tricia’s target was in the back still unconscious. A pale skinned girl with dark hair, she was maybe twenty two or twenty three years old, I guessed. Black jeans and a pale muddy green top. She didn’t look anything special, but then I thought neither had Jackie, the girl I’d helped pick up on my very first mission with Harry. You couldn’t always tell much from looks, these days it was as likely she’d been snatched because of the college course she’d completed. “Come on Miss Oblumov,” Tricia smirked, “let’s get you settled in a nice comfy cell.”

One of the guards was carrying Tricia’s target off the truck, Tricia had grabbed her laptop case and was carrying it aloft like a trophy. Eva, bent down to pick up the captive’s handbag that had been tossed in beside her. “Didn’t you say this girl was Ukrainian?” she asked.

“Sure,” said Tricia, “straight out of Kiev University, over here studying at Imperial College.”

“Oh,” said Eva, “I just wondered why she had a Russian Federation flag on her bag that’s all.” Sure enough, hanging from one of the straps, was a small replica of the Russian flag with its white, blue and red stripes.

“How should I know?” said Tricia aggressively, determined to let nothing detract from her triumph. “The Prep team can work that one out. I’ve done my job.” She grabbed the bag from Eva and stalked off after her captive.

Eva had felt there was something odd about things at that point. I was with Sebastian when he discovered what it was.

“Look,” he said, pointing to the screen of the captive’s lap top. "Here’s her email account,, plenty of correspondence on her research, plenty of emails back and forth to friends in the Ukraine – see all the addressees? But here,” he opened up another window, “is another on-line identity Lots of family correspondence, personal stuff, emails to a boyfriend in Volgograd, no work stuff at all. Our little collection isn’t all she seems.”

“Tell me I didn’t hear the name Kustensky just then.” It was Freddie’s voice. He was standing in the doorway.

Seb looked up. “Err, ‘fraid so, boss,” he said.

“Oh great.” I didn’t think he was being enthusiastic. “I want a summary of everything you’ve got on this pick up on my desk in thirty minutes and I want to see whoever responsible for this collection in my office at the same time.” He stormed off. Tricia looked puzzled.

She was looking abashed when I saw her an hour later.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“Nothing I can’t fix,” she said scowling and stalked off.

She might have thought she could fix it but obviously Freddie didn’t. He called me in an hour later. “You’re the man for PR,” he said. “How do we sort this out?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “I don’t really understand the problem except this girl isn’t who we thought she was when we picked her up.”

“The problem isn’t who she isn’t, the problem is who she is. Or rather who her daddy is.”

“And daddy is?”

“Kustensky,” he said. I looked blank. “Anatoly Kustensky.”

“Ah,” I said, recognising the name finally. “Of football, oil and gas fame.”

“Football, oil, gas and one or two businesses not so different from our own in the general area of the old Russian Empire.”

“So we have inadvertently picked up his daughter.”

“Uh, huh”

“He’s not going to be pleased.”

“Almost certainly. And of course he wasn’t terribly happy with us before – Kushtia being really part of their old sphere of influence in his mind.”


“Yes,” said Freddie. “Ah, it most certainly is.”

“Well my PR advice would be to seize the initiative, contact him directly and explain what happened. I’d get Alana out of her cell and into more comfortable accommodation and suggest that you and he get together so he can be reunited with her as soon as possible.”

“Well, it’s a start. I’m not sure he’ll respond to just an ‘I’m terribly sorry, old man,’ but I guess we can try. Mind you apologising isn’t really my style.”

“No,” I said. “That’s why he just might believe you.” Clegg just grunted and looked thoughtful.

I saw Tricia shortly afterwards. “You just had to stick your nose in didn’t you? You couldn’t just leave it to me to sort out?”

“Hang on,” I said. “Clegg called me in. What am I supposed to so? Tell him to get lost because you’re being precious about your first mission?”

“Precious! I am not being precious. This wasn’t my fault.”

“Nobody said it was, Trish. But if Freddie asks me to help then I have to help, don’t I?”

“Why can’t he trust me to sort it out?”

“Because it looks like you cocked it up.”

“Oh, great! So now you’re blaming me, too.”

“Trish, that’s not what I said.”

“Oh! Oh, just fuck off. Go and shag your little island girl. Or take a turn with the writer. Just stay away from me.” She grabbed her things and ran off. I didn’t feel inclined to follow her.

She didn’t look any the more pleased to see me when we turned up in Clegg’s office two days later to meet with Mr. Kustensky. His daughter was sitting in one of Clegg’s comfortable armchairs. They’d found her some clean clothes and she’d had a comfortable room in the area we usually used for entertaining customers. Clegg was sitting behind his desk, looking pensive as he asked the two of us to sit down. Elly was there too, looking as inscrutable as ever. Alana dealt Tricia a poisonous glance. Tricia at least had the grace to look embarrassed. She was wearing a dark blue trouser suit over a white top. I’d suggested to Clegg that something sober and professional would be best. She wasn’t talking to me.

Moments later Kustensky was shown in. “Anatoly,” Clegg beamed, getting to his feet and proffering a hand.

The massive Russian looked at it and ignored it. “Clegg, Ms Grant,” he acknowledged. He took no notice of Tricia and myself but turned to his daughter. “Are you all right?” he asked.

“Da,” she replied. Kustensky grunted and took a seat at Clegg’s suggestion.

“Mr Kustensky, I just wish to extend my most heartfelt apologies for the mix up over your daughter.” Kustensky looked unimpressed. I could see that Elly was watching him closely, “It was entirely our fault and we should of course have realised through our research that what we thought was a legitimate target was, in fact, off-limits. I can only seek to assure you that it was completely inadvertent. The person responsible is here,” he gestured towards Tricia, “and wishes to add her own apologies.”

I could imagine the conversation that had gone on between Tricia and Clegg but in fairness to her she managed to make it sound sincere. “Mr Kustensky,” she said, “this was completely my fault. I missed details in our original evaluation that would have led us to realise the identity of your daughter. I can only add my apologies to those of Mr Clegg. We have done everything to ensure your daughter’s comfort once we realised the situation, as I am sure she will confirm.”

Alana gave a short nod of agreement. Kustensky turned to Clegg. “Well,” he said. “That seems fair. I accept your apologies. No hard feelings as you British say.” Clegg smiled. Tricia looked relieved. Elly was still watching with an impassive stare. “There is however, the issue of compensation,” Kustensky went on.

“Compensation?” queried Clegg. Elly began to look concerned.

“Yes,” said Kustensky. “The disruption to my daughter’s education. The emotional stress. My own time in having to come here. Most inconvenient.”

“I see,” said Clegg, warily. “I can understand your point of view. What do you propose?”

“Well, Mr Clegg.” Kustensky leant forward across the desk and brought his hands together. “Your organisation is respected, well respected. You are known not to employ incompetents. You should not allow thet thought that might be the case to prosper. I suggest that I take this young lady here,” he pointed to Tricia, “as compensation. You will be seen to have acted decisively. The person responsible will be seen to have paid appropriately. I will have an asset that I can realise. I am prepared to take the risk on the financial implications.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Tricia getting to her feet, looking towards Clegg for support and then becoming increasingly concerned as she saw it was not there. Elly simply shook her head at Tricia.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said Clegg, pulling a pistol from his desk drawer and pointing it straight at her. “It seems like a most reasonable arrangement to me. I know I’ve invested heavily in your training Tricia, dear, but sometimes you have to know when not to let bad money follow good.” He turned towards me. “Be a good chap and put something around the girl’s wrists will you, Larry old boy,” he said.

“No, Larry,” Tricia begged, “you can’t.”

I was in a quandary. We’d had a good thing going for a while but after all it had been Trish that had been the one to back away. And I didn’t want to argue with Clegg or Kustensky. “Sorry Trish,” I said, reaching for the pair of handcuffs that sat on Clegg’s desk and snapped them around Tricia’s wrists. Elly seemed to relax.

Alana looked approving. “She grabbed me. That one. She used the drugs,” she said, gesturing at Tricia as she struggled against the cuffs. “Now she’ll see how it feels. Here,” she pulled a scarf from her handbag and tossed it to me. “For a gag. We won’t want to listen to her complaints on our way back.” I put a knot in the middle of the scarf and ignoring Tricia’s pleading looks jammed it into her mouth. She gasped and groaned, I suspected with both pain and betrayal, as I jerked the scarf tight to knot it behind her head. Alana got up and gripped Tricia by the arm.

Kustensky got to his feet. This time he extended his hand. “Freddie,” he said.

Clegg responded grasping the Russian’s hand in both of his. “Anatoly,” he replied.

“I’m pleased we settled this amicably,” Kustensky said. “Maybe we should talk more.”

“Of course,” said Clegg. “I’ll see this young lady is shipped on.” Alana looked disappointed that she wouldn’t be taking Tricia with her. “You’ll understand that we’ll want to hep her to lose any memories that she may have of her work here. There may be some other damage but nothing that will prevent you from using her as a sexual toy or a domestic. In fact the programme we have here will make her very suitable for the former if that’s something you can find a use for.” Tricia’s struggles became all the more acute.

“I understand, Clegg. You must protect your organisation and if this asset has proved unreliable she can only be used for menial tasks anyway. Honour is satisfied in any respect. We also need to talk, about other matters, I think. You are busy with some old friends of ours.”

“The Kushtians?” said Clegg. “They approached us, you know.”

“I’m sure. I’m sure. Our old colonies are perhaps more willing to look for new friends than to remember their old ones. I’m sure you have the same problems.”

“Anatoly, you are right. There are places, once pink on the map, that seem to have forgotten those that might be best able to help them.”

“I thought so. There are some parts of Africa where we might be able to take a role not open to you any more. Some cooperative ventures might be possible. You would acquire in Europe or UK we would sell in some of the central and southern African states. Would that make sense?”

Clegg looked towards Elly, evidently taking her deadpan look for support. “It could, Anatoly, it could. We’re more in the client specific markets these days anyway. Not so much in general sales, we’d be happy to talk about different ways of doing things..”

“Good. I’ll arrange a conversation between us and Constanza. She’s keen to be part of this too.”

“OK,” said Freddie, carefully. “Can you give us any tips on dealing with the Kushtians?”

Anatoly laughed as he got to his feet. “Sell to them if you want but don’t trust them and never try to work with them. Too greedy, too careless. They’ve lived in the past for too long. Maybe they’ll change or maybe the past will come around again but for those of us that must live in the present they don’t make good bedfellows.” Elly’s face betrayed a flicker of an ‘I told you so’ expression. “Oh and stay away from their women,” he said, “sell them all that you like but never take one for your own. Trust me, I know from experience.” Alana gave him a poisonous look. For some reason, it made me suspect that her mother might have been Kushtian.

At that, Anatoly left taking his daughter with him. Clegg called for one of the guards. He looked surprised to see Tricia struggling and grunting but he didn’t hesitate when Clegg told him to take her down to the cells. She whimpered as she was hustled away.

Clegg followed them out, leaving Elly and me behind. Elly sat down behind Clegg’s desk. As she did so she pulled a small automatic pistol from behind her where it had been tucked into the waistband of her trousers. She checked it, flicked the safety catch on, and put it down on the desk. “You made a good call,” she said, smiling at me.

“Call?” I said.

“Over Tricia. I wasn’t sure if you would. I thought there might be some sentimental attachment that might make things difficult.” I didn’t say anything. “I wonder if it would have been different if it had been Sukie or Rachel.”

“Perhaps,” I said slowly. “But, then, I feel responsible for them. They are here because of me. Tricia wasn’t. She chose this game.”

“And what do you think about this game? You chose it too, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” I acknowledged. “But it’s different to how I thought it would turn out I guess.”

“You’re not the only one,” Elly said. “but I need to talk to Freddie about that.”

Chapter 69: Conference Call

Tricia’s downfall caused some consternation in the organisation for a while. Nobody likes to see a colleague suddenly taken out like that. On the other hand most people seemed to have had a belly full of having their ears bent by Tricia’s constant, “Why won’t they let me lead a collection?” so the general view was that she had it coming to her.

Harry and Rick were pretty nervous in case Freddie came gunning for them too. After all it had been Harry’s call, in the end, to give Tricia the lead on that job and Rick’s team had done the intelligence gathering. In the end I guess, Freddie decided that it was better to have them in place worrying about things than to try to change things around.

I saw Tricia after they’d been working on her for only a few days. She was being put through her paces down in one of the training rooms. The combination of the drugs and the mistreatment she was going through had taken its toll already. Anatoly had said he intended to use her as a housemaid at their summer dacha. Freddie had thought she should be delivered in a state where she was fully equipped to perform her required role as well as having no recollection of her work for his business. She’d been put into a maid’s uniform, black dress, white apron and cap. Her trainer was sitting in an armchair while Tricia served him a drink. I looked in on them. Tricia didn’t respond to my arrival. Her blank look and the dribble of drool from the corner of her slack mouth provided all the evidence that was needed of the ruthlessness of the way in which she was being prepared for Kustensky. Freddie had warned that there might be some damage. As far as I could see, it was more a question of whether she’d even be able to function in the limited way that we’d promised. From the way she looked it was surprising that she could manage to walk and hold a tray. I found it pretty distressing to see her like that, but I still didn’t think that there was much I could have done about it, once Freddie (and, presumably, Elly) had decided to cut their losses over her. I was just glad that it hadn’t involved Sukie or Rachel. That would have been a harder call to make.

Freddie was busy. He and Elly had been talking together a lot. It was obvious from what Elly had said that she wasn’t happy with how things were going with the business. I’d mentioned the conversation that I had had with Steve and we’d agreed that I’d follow that up if I got a chance. Then Freddie told me that he and Elly had agreed on moving things forward with Anatoly. I sat in on a telephone conference with the two of them, Anatoly and Constanza.

Constanza kicked things off. “Things seem to have been a bit difficult for you lately, Freddie,” she began. “I mean the business with Lady M and now poor Alana. Not what I’d have thought from your operation.”

“I think you’ll find,” Clegg said slowly, “that there have been rather fewer problems with my operation than with yours, Constanza dear. Let’s see, there was that concert pianist whose fingers you managed to break during the collection process and I seem to recall that there was a religious sect that was not so happy with the idea of receiving a new priestess that was only almost a virgin. This is a risky business, Constanza, we all make mistakes.”

“Hmm,” cut in Anatoly. “If you two can avoid the bickering we might get a little further. Let me explain my current thinking. You two run perfectly adequate collection and preparation operations.” It sounded as though Anatoly almost heard Clegg’s grin of satisfaction and I could imagine Constanza’s querulously raised eyebrow. “At least most of the time, that is. Constanza, your expertise is in Europe, you don’t understand the UK. Clegg, you are as proficient in the UK as Constanza is in mainland Europe. I’d like the two of you to work together. The areas that my organisation covers have a great appetite for product from western Europe. It’s not practical for me to source it myself – Clegg you know how conspicuous some of my team would look in London - but I would like to have some reliable partners, people I can work with on a continuing basis.”

“I’m not sure, Anatoly,” Constanza began. “We’re not in a volume business, any more than Clegg is. You’ve seen the sort of work we do. Most of it is custom collection to order.”

“That’s very much the way for us too, Anatoly,” Clegg agreed. “Almost all of what we are doing is very specific these days. We’ve turned off the old operations that picked up girls on spec. I don’t think we’d be very well set up to fill the cages of some Georgian sex camp.”

I watched Elly wince. She wasn’t always comfortable with Clegg’s prejudices about foreigners.

“I think, Freddie,” Anatoly came back in measured tones, “that you have a rather out of date view of my clients. We are not talking about high volume but high quality. There’s a lot of money here and a great interest in acquiring ‘toys’ as my clients call them.”

“Toys?” said Clegg.

“Yes, it’s rather a different product from what you’ve been used to supplying. I sometimes think that the Europeans have lost all subtlety, your barbarian origins are reasserting themselves. The approach to slave owning there is often so brutal. Constanza, tell me, do you ever take product back for resale?”

“You know we don’t, Anatoly. It’s too often damaged. We leave the resale market for others. If we’ve picked it and prepped it we can speak for it. Otherwise, someone else can take the risk.”

Clegg joined in. “She’s right Anatoly. It’s a costly business, looking for new collections all the time, but most of the customers can’t be relied on to keep them in anything like original condition.”

“Well,” said Anatoly, “I understand that. But why is it? I’ll tell you. It’s because your customers are brutes. And Clegg, you must know the Kushtian’s are the worst.” Clegg grunted. “Now, my client base is rather different. They are looking for something that they can care for and enjoy. It’s a very good life for those that are purchased. They lose their freedom, of course, but apart from that they have a very comfortable life. They have a rather unique relationship with their new owners and we retain a continuing interest in their well being. The owners all understand that they must not mistreat their toys – the consequences for that are unfortunate for the owner. But on the other side the owner is provided with a sexually delightful companion. We find that requests are often for more mature women than is the case in other sectors. Forty plus year olds seem to be highly desired and well suited to the role of toys.”

“And what does that mean for us?” Clegg seemed wary. I had my own thoughts. As far as I could tell it meant lower volumes with less repeat business, higher end user prices but lower margins because we’d be shipping through Anatoly’s operation and I didn’t imagine he’d be doing it for the love of it.

Anatoly spoke slowly. “I suggest it will mean simply some additional business to your regular activities. You will be concerned about margins and volumes I am sure.” Elly leant forward towards the speakerphone, she had obviously picked up on the same problem that I had. “That is not a point on which you should concern yourself, the premium on this product line is more than sufficient to cover the expenses of both my organisation and yours, whichever of you is contributing. I am quite happy to pursue an open book on accounting for these items. As to volumes, well, it’s just additional sales, isn’t it? These are opportunities you would not normally reach. It’s marginal business for you, additional coverage for your research teams, taking up unused capacity in your Prep activities and so on.”

Clegg leant forward to the speakerphone. “Could you excuse us for a minute, Anatoly?” He said.

“Sure,” said the Russian.

Clegg clicked the mute switch. “What do we think?”

Elly spoke first. “I don’t trust him. Not one inch. But it’s additional business and we could do with it to help cover overheads. As long as we don’t invest additionally. And we don’t have to work with Constanza directly.”

The reference to Constanza puzzled me. Clegg had seemed quite sanguine about their encounters. Their exchanges seemed to have an amiable nature. Of course, I then thought, that might well be what Elly had concerns about. Clegg turned to me. “Larry?” he said.

“I think it’s a bit of a distraction and I’d be surprised if it turns out to be genuinely marginal business. You always end up needing more resources in my experience. On the other hand, it fits with our aims to move up-market in terms of product and client if we believe what Anatoly says about ‘toys’. Plus I’ve been worried by how much the Kushtian volumes have been dominating what we’ve been doing. If they went away suddenly for any reason we’d be in serious cash flow problems, I suspect. I suppose my view is we should do it but keep our eyes open and carry on trying to develop other routes to market or product lines.”

Clegg sat back. “All right,” he said. “I think we’re agreed. Let’s go back on the line.” He flicked up the mute switch. The sound of Constanza and Anatoly chuckling after an exchanged joke came through the speaker. “Sorry for that,” said Clegg.

“Don’t worry,” said Constanza, “I was just asking Anatoly how his daughter was.”

Clegg looked irritated. Elly put out a hand to his arm as if to say, “Its not worth it.” Clegg grunted. “I’m sure she’s fine. Isn’t she, Anatoly?”

“Of course, Freddie, of course,” Anatoly came back. “Do you think I would be asking you to collect and prep high value items if she’d come to any harm? In fact, but don’t tell her I told you, I think you gave her rather an easy ride. Her story of collection and confinement told me your people had the right methods for this sort of product.”

Clegg looked rather self satisfied. Elly gave him a “you’re being flattered, be careful” look.

Anatoly went on. “Well, Constanza is keen to participate? Can I assume that you are too, Clegg?”

“Keen is too strong a word, Anatoly,” Clegg responded. “Willing would be better. Let’s see how it goes. But you can count us in, at least initially.”

“You’re too much of a sceptic, Freddie,” Constanza’s voice came in.

“Maybe,” said Clegg. “I just feel happier that way.”

“All right,” said Anatoly. “I will set things up with my team. I assume you can make available suitable communication channels to allow us to specify our requirements. My legal team will put together a distribution collaboration agreement.”

“You’d better let me see that, Anatoly,” said Elly.

“Of course,” said Anatoly.

“Still spending your time with your head in contracts?” said Constanza.

“Still spending yours with your head in men’s laps?” snapped Elly in an uncharacteristic momentary loss of control. Clegg coughed and looked sheepish. Elly looked as if she regretted saying it.

Anatoly cut in. “Well that’s all from my side,” he said. “I expect we’ll all speak again soon.”

The line went dead. Freddie turned to me and said, “I want to understand more about these ‘toys’. The way Glennis treats his stable is the nearest thing I’ve heard of to that. Didn’t you say you were going to see him?” I nodded. “Well, I think you should make it sooner than later.” I left Elly and Freddie together. It sounded like they had some unfinished business to discuss.

Chapter 70: Colonial Ambitions

Rick was still busy refining the sexualisation and pleasure programme. Harry was using the Tricia debacle as an excuse to get all of his team to re-run some of the basic operations drills. As he said, after the problems with Lady Marchmont, and now this, there was room for improvement, to say the least.

Life with Sukie and Rachel carried on much as before. Sukie seemed content in her role. Rachel had taken on the sexualisation programme with enthusiasm and her writing was better than ever.

I was trying to set up a trip to see Steve Glennis but in the mean time business carried on as usual. Clegg had been contacted by another of his chums who was looking for a more personal contact. With Brian now long out of the picture, Clegg had asked me to follow it up.

I was sitting in the Long Room at Lords. Out on the pitch the England team were 127 for 7 in the first session of the final day needing another 230 runs to avoid an innings defeat by the Australians and the loss of the Ashes. With the best will in the world it was looking like a bad day for English cricket. There was a collective groan from the crowd around the ground outside and a ripple of polite applause. 127 for 8, I assumed.

The door at the far end of the room swung open and an elderly man in wheel chair barged his way through and headed towards me. “Ross?” he asked as he pulled to a halt alongside me. I nodded. “Good he said glad you’re on time. Do sit down.”

He was in his late seventies I guessed, wearing pale flannel trousers and a striped blazer. He wore a tie that had the air of a demented snake caught in an act of strangulation. It carried the blood and vomit stripes of the Marylebone Cricket Club.

I felt I ought to apologise for interrupting his enjoyment of the game at a crucial moment.

“Enjoyment?” he snorted. “There’s more fun to be had sticking your head in a wasps nest. Completely useless bunch. No backbone. No fibre.” He held his hand out. “Colonel Snell,” he said, “My friends call me ‘Basher’. You can too.”

“Unusual nickname, ‘Basher’. Cricket? Bit of a batsman were you? Army days? ” I said.

“No,” said Snell. “Before that. School days. Some of my friends seemed to think I had an inordinate fondness for the masturbatory arts. Quite right of course. It’s kept me fit for the past sixty years. Can’t complain can I?”

I was regretting asking. I was keen to change the subject. “Mr Clegg said you had a possible project for us.”

“Yes,” Basher replied, “Do you never feel a little cheated? As though your rightful legacy has been usurped by others?”

I shook my head, I really didn’t have much of an idea what he was on about.

“You see this?” He pointed to a large world globe beside the case that held the tiny urn that the collective endeavours of the two teams on the field were currently directed towards. “In my youth a large part of this was coloured pink. The British Empire, young man, the British Empire. Just think, we ruled a quarter of the globe. And what thanks do we have for it now?”

I tried to look sympathetic. I wasn’t at all clear what these rants had to do with the job we were being asked to take on.

“None!” He barked, prodding at the globe with his stick. “None at all. And they have the gall to beat us at our own games. Football. Cricket. Golf. All given to the world by the British. And the weak kneed government does nothing about our national teams. And to what avail? I ask you? Ha! The occasional success, perhaps, but it’s the exception. Mark my words!”

The club steward was looking concerned at my guest’s mistreatment of the globe.

“Never mind Barry, my young fellow, we’ll show them.”

“Its Larry,” I said correcting him.

“Precisely. Barry. I’m no longer a young man, Barry, want to find some companionship for my old age.”

“I see, a woman of mature years perhaps,” I suggested, “someone to bring cheer in your autumn years.”

“Pah, stuff and nonsense!” he exploded. “I said I wasn’t young not that I was decrepit. No, I’m looking for some young girls to amuse me. Take my mind off my aches and pains. Give me something to do on the long dark winter evenings if you know what I mean?” he gave me a lascivious leer. “I may be in a wheel chair but just because my legs don’t work, don’t imagine that everything below the waist is non-functional. Constant use, that’s what’s kept it working. Constant use!”

Well who was I to judge? “I’m sure we have something suitable in stock,” I said.

“Shouldn’t think so,” he said. “I’m a man of particular tastes.”

In my experience “particular tastes” usually turned out to be a euphemism for “raving pervert” but again the more specialised the tastes, the more opportunity for us to add value and the better our fee. I said, “And those tastes are?”

“I wish to rebuild the Empire.” I raised my eyebrows. “On a small scale to be sure,” he said seeing my astonishment, “but rebuild it I shall.” He dropped his voice. “A stable of young ladies from each corner of the Empire. A dozen young women – a dozen mind not some nasty, continental, decimal ten. All of them, under twenty five say. Brought back under the rightful rule of a scion of the United Kingdom.”

“I see,” I said, “So what Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, South Africa,…”

“Yes, all of those. Malaya, naturally, Hong Kong, Rhodesia, Kenya, Nigeria. And of course from the biggest colony of all.”

“Sorry,” I said, puzzled, “I thought we’d covered the main ones.”

“You omitted the American Colonies.”

“What? The USA?”

“I don’t recognise that term. That fool George’s fault He lost the lot. Should have held on to it. Think what the Empire would be like today! But yes we must have at least one representative of the Thirteen Colonies – New York, Carolina, Massachusetts Bay, somewhere like that.”

“Ah,” I said. “You realise, of course that this will be an expensive project. I mean we’d be talking one and half, two million, ah.” I caught myself in time, ”no, at least a million pounds sterling.”

“Not a problem young man,” he replied, looking relieved that I had avoided the use of the word “dollars”.

“You don’t feel that this could prove something of a strain? I mean a man of your years. So many young women?”

“I may be in a wheel chair, young Barry but I’m not in my grave just yet. I’m more than able to provide them with the care and attention that they deserve. People forget that the home country had a great responsibility to care for those of its subject territories. These young ladies will be well cared for, you need not worry. It might help if some of them had some nursing skills though. Just to be practical.”

“OK, now perhaps we can talk about how we should manage the project. Normally these days we’d let you advise us on requirements, comment on our plans and so on through our web site but I guess we could….”

He interrupted. “I’m happy with a computer. Just give me the url the log-on i.d. and a password.” He could see I was non-plussed. “Listen my boy,” he said, “if you knew how difficult it was to get hold of pornography in my youth you’d realise that coming to grips with Mr Gates’ abominations is a breeze compared with the benefits provided. I’m perfectly at home on the Internet.”

I thought about Basher. It seemed he was much closer to Kushnati and the Kushtians than to Anatoly’s vision of a toy owner. I was pretty clear that if we did find him the girls he wanted we’d not be able to re-sell them.

End of part 9