Despite the occasion, Slipper viewed the Great Hall with pride. It was decked out precisely as he remembered his father so vividly describing to him all those years ago, and as was so faithfully captured in the old sepia tints residing in Slipper’s collection. It was almost a pity that Lappit couldn’t be here to see it, he thought.
The crisp linen enveloped the banqueting table like a virgin’s mantle. Slipper surprised himself by the use of the metaphor, such comparisons would have been alien to his mind a few short months ago but, as he had so distressingly found out, the world revolved around Sex and its ramifications whatever he, Slipper, might think about it all. A shroud might, in fact, have made a better simile he thought.
The only jarring note in the whole layout was the presence of the TV cameras. True, they had tried to make themselves as unobtrusive as possible, but the lights scintillating from the polished silver turned the cavernous Great Hall into something resembling a Christmas grotto. However, that apart, Slipper was well pleased with the culmination of his efforts.
By now, Helga would be introducing Lappit to the dubious delights of the dungeon. Hors d’ouvres would see Lappit scrambling to get out, whilst dessert should, if Helga’s previous efforts in the massage parlour were anything to go by, see him tied in as intricate and revolting a knot as any unsuspecting dinner guest taken on a surprise tour of the building might ever expect - or wish - to see. It was a pity to have to involve Helga at all, really. Slipper had taken quite a liking to her. But, when the devil drives ... And, unless he missed his guess, it would do Helga’s reputation no harm at all, what with the array of notables and men of position present that evening who might privately wish to avail themselves of the girl’s services. Why, she might even be able to set up in opposition to Miss Lilian!
Slipper threw open the double doors to the Hall and left to summon the guests from the Reception in to dinner.
Fully kitted out in waiters’ uniform, Tony and his crew looked every inch the gangster fully kitted out in waiters’ uniform. And felt it. They grouped self-consciously in a corner of the kitchen while Cherry explained to them again the etiquette of waiting on table. What with the need to leave one of his group to watch over Arthur Ying and the hi-jacked bona fide waiters, Tony was lacking a full complement, so picking up Cherry had been an unexpected bonus for him. At least it meant that since they now had no option but to continue the masquerade through to the finish, they still had a faint chance of appearing to know their business with Cherry on hand to give them some concentrated coaching under pain of Arthur’s testicles being served up as first course.
“I always knew you were up to no good” Cherry spat at Kwan.
“Save the recriminations for later, baby” hissed Tony.
“Just see us through this little charade and your precious Arthur gets to keep his balls.”
Tony glared but made no reply. Instead he sidled over to the half open doorway and peered through the crack into the Reception room. Guests milled in a seething mass balancing glasses of sherry and hors d’ouvres plates whilst a large knot of the more active social climbers ravelled around Lady Melsham and her honoured guest.
“…Minister.” Lady Melsham was saying “I really must apologise for my husband’s indisposition. This is something which he was really looking forward to. But, as luck would have it” she continued, “we do have a member of the family staying with us who can take his place at top table.” She waved across the room, catching the attention of a tuxedoed man who was engaging a vuluptuous young woman in conversation. “Freddy. Freddy, do come over. I’d like to introduce you to the Prime Minister.”
At mention of Freddy’s name Tony’s grip on the door frame tightened and, as Freddy turned around, a hiss like escaping steam forced itself from Kwan’s lips.
Freddy wandered across, turning a few of the blue-rinsed female heads as he went, and was introduced. The sight of him within touching distance at last was almost unbearable and Kwan trembled with rage. Then, the double doors at the end of the room were thrown open and the guests were called to take their places at table.
Kwan shut the door and leaned against it, swallowing. “Right, this is it. Lappit is mine - just don’t forget. I want Lappit!”
Stripped to their underclothes, the hi-jacked waiters huddled in the ruined cottage looked just like a herd of sheep trussed for shearing. Kwan had done well to leave Kim Lee behind. Apart from the fact that not one of the waiters’ uniforms would have fitted his enormous bulk, his intellect made it unlikely that he could have gleaned which end of a bottle the wine came out of. He was, however, extremely effective at blocking the narrow doorway to the cottage. Squatting impassively in the entrance, he looked every bit the Buddha’s idiot brother. He glared at Arthur struggling against his bonds. “You! Keep still!” he grunted tersely, waving a knife, “Or Kim Lee take balls!”
Ying froze. He didn’t doubt that the big man would do as he promised and cursed the luck that had brought him and Cherry into contact with Kwan again. A few minutes either way and they would have missed the chance encounter with the van as they toiled across the moors, leaving Kwan and his murderous crew to whatever nefarious purpose they had in mind.
He leaned back against the wall, impotent with rage and frustration. Staddon Hall, Tony had said. He remembered that he and Cherry had passed some sort of Stately Home back in the valley some time before. There had been nothing of similar status marked on the map, so it was odds on that that was where they were headed. Not that the knowledge did Arthur any good, and not that he would know what to do if ever he did get out of the cottage with his balls intact. But the thought of Cherry becoming implicated in whatever Kwan had in mind made his blood boil. Even if he had to do it falsetto, he determined, then he was going to rescue Cherry from Kwan’s clutches before the night was out!
He relaxed against the wall looking desperately around the small room whilst his denuded countrymen shivered in the corner. The light was rapidly failing and the sky, glimpsed through the broken rafters, was already streaked with the deep purple of evening on the high moors. Broken roof tiles lay strewn across the earth floor and blocks of granite lay higgledy-piggledy where they had fallen. Baulks of timber that had, at one time, propped up the leaning walls also lay strewn around, see-saw fashion across the blocks and, suddenly, the engineer in Ying saw the possibilities.
One baulk of timber still lay against the wall just above the door jamb. It may have served some purpose at one time but, for now, it seemed simply to be resting there. The foot of this baulk lay in front of another, the other end of which, fulcrumed against a massive block of granite which had fallen from the wall, lay well within kicking range of Arthur’s outstretched feet. One good boot, delivered with all the desperation at his command should, he reasoned, see the force transmitted outwards, knocking the foot of the leaning baulk away from the wall and leaving the suddenly free end to find its own resting position square on the head of the dozing Kim Lee.
Slowly he drew his knees up to his chest and then exploded them out, yelping with pain as his feet collided with the solid baulk of wood. Everything then seemed to happen in slow motion. Kim Lee gave a bull roar of rage and started to rise, knife outstretched. The leaning baulk of timber deprived of support seemed to float down and, connecting with Kim Lee’s rising head, bounce back again, finally coming to rest across the big man’s legs as he sat heavily down covered in lath and plaster from the ceiling which collapsed in an avalanche of dust and debris.
Struggling upright, Arthur coughed through the constriction of the gag. As the dust settled, he saw that Kim Lee lay prostrate in the doorway pinned across his legs by the heavy baulk of timber in which, fortuitously, his knife lay quivering, where it had been carried from his hand by the descending support. A moment later Arthur had cut his bonds, torn the gag from his mouth and freed his comrades in adversity, who all then began talking at once.
“Sod this for a lark” Arthur said and, stepping nimbly over the slumbering body of the big Chinaman, sped into the night in the direction of Staddon Hall, followed by a bewildered set of waiters who had nothing better to do and didn’t really fancy being around when Kim Lee came to again.
After a desperate run, leaving the stumbling Chinese far behind, Ying finally made the gates of Staddon Hall, where he was brought precipitately to a stop by Security. Vocal at the best of times, words ran over themselves in their haste to escape as he stood panting and wheezing at gates, desperately trying to get the Guards to understand him. His heroic dash over the moors had driven him to the point of physical exhaustion and he was making no sense to the guards at all, who had gathered around looking highly suspiciously at Ying, as he stood there panting.
It took him fifteen minutes or so to recover and for the guards to make any sort of sense out of what he was saying but, gradually, he built up a picture as, one by one the purloined waiters toiled up behind him adding weight to his story with their own barely comprehensible, gabbling. The first Security Guard looked at the second. “Oh, shit!” they said, simultaneously, and broke into a run for the Hall, followed by Ying and his companions.
Lady Melsham lingered as she drew level with Slipper guiding the guests to their seats. “Where’s Archie?” she hissed out of the corner of her mouth. “I can’t keep on making excuses for him all night.”
Slipper raised his shoulders in an infinitesimal shrug, looking in wide-eyed innocence at Lady Sylvia. He didn’t regret for one moment not confiding in her. The less she knew the better. It would come as a more genuine surprise later in the evening. “I don’t know. Just stall them, ” he hissed back. “I’ll make sure things run smoothly. Don’t worry”.
Sylvia shuddered an exasperated sigh and stalked away looking, briefly, murderous. When she took her place by the Prime Minister her face had once again assumed Society Hostess mode.
The P.M. smiled his benign smile. “I must say, Lady Melsham, that I’m looking forward immensely to this evening’s meal. Good, honest, British fare is precisely what the country should be prepared to support. This is a remarkable project that your husband has started. It’s a pity he can’t be here to see it. Not something he ate I hope … hah, hah hah!” The P.M.’s mirth spread sycophantic ripples across the top table and he made a mental note to include the witticism in his memoirs.
Beneath the Great Hall, it was not so much what he had eaten as what he was about to eat that was making Lord Melsham sick to the stomach. He had not thought that his spine was quite so supple as to let him peer quite so closely at his own backside. Not that he had started out the evening with that intention in mind. But now that the eventuality had come to pass, he was in two minds… no, he was in no mind at all … whether to complain about it in view of what he might trap between his teeth if he did: the damage that Doctor Farmer’s sticking plaster had done to his scrotum was still all too clearly visible.
Helga relented and returned his legs to the horizontal position, jack-knifing his body onto the table as she did.
Melsham let out an agonized scream. “Let me go, you mad German bitch! I’m supposed to be upstairs.”
“Nein. Nicht upstairs. Iss no toys upstairs. Iss only bed. Mein noddy liddle boy like his toys, nein? Helga has special toy for her leibling,” She withdrew from underneath the table an object which made Melsham’s hair stand on end … which was more than it did for his genitals as he desperately tried to contract them into his body.
“Ach. Mein noddy liddle boy is zo shy. Vy he not stand up for his Helga?”
“You think I’m stupid, or what?” Melsham shrieked, “I wouldn’t stand up for Angelina-bloody-Jolie with that contraption around.”
“He not like?” Helga asked, turning the handle and coaxing the workings into a horrid, grating, whirr.
“No. He does not fucking well like!” Melsham yelled, “Put it away!”
“But is nice”, Helga complained. “It make mein noddy liddle boy big, like .… like Space Rocket.”
Melsham, who had seen one of those disintegrate into minced morsel chunks, took no consolation at all from Helga’s encouraging words and hastily folded his legs over his rapidly shrinking member.
Helga was genuinely non-plussed. Reluctantly she laid aside the medieval virilty aid - or at least, what she had assumed to be so, for much of the equipment with which the room was supplied was entirely foreign to her - and cast around for some other inducement.
While she was thus engrossed Melsham bolted for the door, only to find the door itself bolted - and locked - with the key nestling securely in Helga’s formidable cleavage. He groaned. Helga rounded on him in delight, sensing an arousal of interest, and Melsham groaned again in despair, edging away from her around the dusty walls of the dungeon. Helga picked up a vicious-looking cat o’ nine tails and swished it invitingly.
At a more propitious moment, and with a less lethal exponent, Melsham might have embraced the lash with relish, particularly when wielded by a well-stuffed chamber maid. But, there was stuffing and there was stuffing, and if Melsham was any judge, he was the one who would end up stuffed if he stayed on his feet any longer - he remembered his time at the massage parlour only too clearly.
Like a whip-crack he dashed back to the table and threw himself supine on it, concentrating all his effort on his groin. If it was an erection she wanted, an erection the bitch was going to get! She might leave him alone then!
Helga moved quickly to the table and, whilst Melsham’s eyes were closed in concentration, flipped him over, drew down an agglomeration of chains hanging by a rope from the ceiling and shackled his limbs into them with a consummate ease.
“There. Now mein leibling vill not run avay from Helga again!” She hauled on the rope and Melsham rose into the air with a whoop, suspended from the chains like a gently bobbing marionette. He dangled face down across the table for all the world like the light fitting over a billiard table helpless, vulnerable and exposed. Then, as Helga picked up what looked suspiciously like a snooker cue, sweat erupted from his forehead and a frantic, doom laden moan escaped him as he jerked wildly at his bonds. Helga was encouraged. The sudden animation her ‘noddy liddle boy’ was displaying proved to her that she had hit the spot somewhere.
That, precisely, was what Melsham was afraid of. His genitalia hung free and unencumbered. “Help!” he whooped.
“Ja,” Helga said, exasperated. “I help. Is vot I try to do all ze time!” and scooped up the limply hanging object with the tip of the bludgeon she was holding.