Knock it off, Carmen,” complained Harris, “I’ve got to get this furniture moved.”
Carmen twisted his hair around her forefinger. “Never mind the furniture,” she said lazily, assuming a theatrically languorous posture, “Move me. Make the earth shake. Bring the walls crashing down about our ears.” She laughed.
Harris sat up. “Fat chance,” he said “I’m knackered, and I don’t mind admitting it.”
“Who didn’t have his Wheaty Bangs for breakfast, then?” teased Carmen, still playing with his hair.
He tossed his head aside. “A bloke’ d need a sack full of Wheaty Bangs to keep up with you, girl,” Harris retorted. “I’m only human. You? You’re unnatural, you are.”
Carmen responded by draping her arms around his neck and nibbling at his ear lobes.
“No! That’s it for now!” said Harris decisively, jumping to his feet. “I’m just a working lad, me. I’ve got things to do.”
“Ohhhh, Haaarris” drawled Carmen, pouting petulantly.
“Look, if you want something to do, you could help. Get this lot sorted while I drag some more over.” With a bit of luck, Harris reasoned, some heavy manual work might slow her down, although he doubted it. He was going to have to think of something to give himself a respite, or his pension would come through years earlier than anticipated at the current rate of activity. Leaving her desultorily picking over Slipper’s belongings, Harris returned to the Gate House for the next load. There was a lot more than Slipper had described, most of it light stuff that was not going to cause any undue hardship, but there was one ominously heavy-looking iron-bound chest covered in dust that Harris had discovered in a small store-room. He stood in front of it, sized it up, and decided he didn’t like the look of it.
Melsham felt much the same way about the apparition that towered above him at Miss Lilian’s. Helga had answered his knock at the front door with her customary vigour - a cross between innocent exuberance and truculence, which her Teutonic accent did nothing to diminish. Lil had tried to tell her about it before, but with no effect. Melsham took a pace back and his jaw dropped involuntarily.
“Ja? Komm in!” Helga’s query was a command, her invitation an order.
Melsham could do nothing else but obey. Slowly, he edged his way past her, looking with awe at her slab-like face, and feeling curiously like a small boy called before the Headmistress for a misdemeanour behind the bike sheds. He cleared his throat nervously.
Helga placed her hands on his shoulders and inspected him, turning her massive head from side to side, reinforcing his feeling of helplessness. “Ja?” she repeated. “You vish?”
Melsham did wish. He wished to God he hadn’t come. It took a great deal to intimidate Melsham, but there was something about the way she dug her fingers into his collarbone and the calculating, professional way she sized him up that set him on edge. He would normally have given short shrift to ‘bloody foreigners’, but he guessed that any short shrift given to this Amazon would be thrown back in his face with no quarter. He looked wildly about him for assistance, but the Reception Hall was empty and the few doors leading off it firmly closed. He turned back to the formidable woman still holding his shoulders clamped in a vice-like grip and stammered “Er, sorry, I think I must ‘ave t’wrong address. I were lookin’ for Miss Lilian’s Massage Parlour.”
Melsham’s Yorkshire accent always came out strongly when he was agitated and Helga caught, perhaps, one word in five.
“Ja. Iss Miss Lilian’s. You vish massage? She iss schlaffen now.”
For his part Melsham caught the one word ‘massage’ and latched onto it like a drowning man. “Massage. Yes that’s, right. I vish massage,” he mimed the action.
Helga looked pleased and took her hands from his shoulders. “Ach, zo. Iss gut! You komm mit uns. I show.” So saying, she placed a beefy hand firmly between Melsham’s shoulder blades that had him staggering the length of the hall.
“Vait!” The command cracked out as Melsham stumbled to the desk. “Vich?”
Recovering himself, Melsham looked in blank amazement and repeated, “Vich?”
“Ja. Vich? Vich vant you?”
Melsham groped for some level of communication, while Helga plumbed her limited vocabulary.
“You vant yust massage or you vant ... ozzer zings?” She gave a gruesome wink.
Melsham shuddered, and wondered what the hell an ‘ozzerzing’ was. “Ozzerzings?” he asked.
Helga took the query as affirmation, for she nodded hugely as a wide grin split her face. “Gut. Helga like men like ozzer zings.” She gave the gruesome wink again and nudged Melsham in the ribs with an elbow that could have driven rivets. “Ich ver’ gut mit ozzer zings! Komm. Show room.”
In staggering against the desk, Melsham had dislodged a small photograph folder which fell open on the floor, revealing the named portraits of a dozen females, including Helga’s own.
Helga retrieved it and gestured proudly to Melsham. “Iss masseuses. Meine freunden.” She offered it to him. “Zee.” She named the girls one by one, with many Germanic asides that Melsham hadn’t a hope of following.
Whatever the silly woman was saying, Melsham thought in irritation, it was obvious that she was asking him to make a choice. He stabbed a finger at a tiny woman apparently peering over a small inflatable dinghy, until closer inspection revealed what the agglomeration on her upper torso actually was.
“Ja!” exclaimed Helga. “Iss Miss Lilian!” “Miss Lilian iss schlaffen.” She gestured upstairs.
Melsham was very glad to hear it. At last he had picked up on a word he thought he could understand. His flesh crept in expectation of the exquisite ‘Schlappin’’ - he fell into the linguistic sibilance himself - that Miss Lilian could doubtless deliver. It had seemed a lifetime to him since hand had rung against naked flesh and, with a tingle of excitement, he followed Helga upstairs.
She showed him into a room darkened by draperies drawn across the windows, and pointed to a couch dimly outlined in the centre, with other dim silhouettes surrounding it.
“Iss couch,” she said and, indicating a rail hanging from the door, “Iss fur clothes.” She rivetted his ribs again with a chortle. “I go.”
Melsham looked unsuccessfully for a light switch but, not finding one, disrobed in the darkness and hung his clothes on the rail. He sat down on the edge of the couch in a buzz of anticipation, dangling his bare feet and rubbing his ribs ruefully. “What a bloody woman,” he thought. “Gruppen-feuhrer Helga!” He padded softly to the window to draw back the drapes a little and throw some light into the room, but they were apparently sewn together and immoveable. He padded softly back again, barking his shins on some of the equipment that littered the floor. “Sod it!” he swore, hopping over to the couch, and sat nursing his bruised leg. He lay back eventually, savouring the moment.
Waiting was almost the best bit, although Miss Lilian was a long time in coming. Then he heard a door open and close softly and a ‘click’ from the far corner of the room where a small red light appeared. Faint strains of music floated over and a shiver of anticipation raced over Melsham’s paunchy body.
The volume of the music gradually increased until he could almost recognise the tune. It sounded vaguely familiar. Then, with horrifying clarity, he recognised it, as the music swelled to a deafening crescendo and the words goose-stepped uninvited into his mind : ‘Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles’;
The lights blazed on and a huge figure sprang in front of him. He screamed.
Helga, in jack-boots and leather bikini, was an awesome sight. But it was what she was holding that terrified Melsham. More than that, it was the thought of what she was intending to do with it that had him draw his knees up convulsively to his chest.
“Ach!” cried Helga, throwing herself into her role with gusto, “Meine kleine liebling nicht vant his liddle Helga! Ve see about dat. Iss noddy boy!”
The ‘noddy boy’ couldn’t have agreed more. He certainly didn’t want his Helga, little or not. In fact, he hadn’t asked for the bitch at all. Where was the woman with the dinghy? More to the point, and rather urgently at that, what was the German bitch doing with that fearsome looking implement? He shrieked and rolled off the couch as she bent menacingly over him.
“Zo, he runs avay,” Helga declaimed, drawing herself up to her full height and towering over Melsham like the avenging demon from the Gotterdamerung. She discarded the instrument that had so excited Melsham’s attention, and uncoiled a bullwhip from around her body. “Noddy boys vill be vipped until zey obey zer liddle Helga!”
“Oh no they fucking well won’t!” Melsham disagreed, and took to his heels, helped on his way by a crisp flick of the whip across his buttocks. Helga gave chase with a whoop, cracking the whip with a precision that had Melsham leaping and howling across the room and colliding with apparatus the function of which, in his present frame of mind, he had no wish to dwell on but which made Helga’s previous implement look as innocuous as a baby’s rattle.
Helga followed in full-throated pursuit, uttering Germanic oaths of unbelievable ferocity, while Melsham careered, collided and swore his way around the room looking for the way out. He tripped over the implement she had discarded, and sprawled his naked body full length on the floor, recoiling in terror as the sprung jaws snapped shut. “Ach, now ve haf.” Helga threw the whip aside with a dramatic gesture and straddled Melsham’s prostrate body as he tried to scuttle to safety underneath the couch. She clenched her hands together and cracked the knuckles. The sound rang like a volley of pistol shots. “Und now,” she said “Ve massage noddy liddle boy like vot no massage haf bin - Komm!” She plucked Melsham’ s cowering body from the floor with little more effort than if it had been a bag of flour, carried him over to the massage table and deposited him there with every manifestation of evil intent.
Like a rabid ferret, Melsham immediately tried to squirm away across the further side, but Helga unceremoniously hauled him back again. She then doused him with massage oil and began a series of pummelings and stretchings that had Lord Melsham disputing the decibel count with the Wagner now blasting out from the hi-fi. She pounded, pummelled and goosed in time to the music, alternating whispered terms of endearment with blood-curdling threats of retribution if ‘noddy liddle boys’ didn’t do as Helga told them. The exhortation would have seemed superfluous to Melsham, had he been capable of coherent thought: a whole Panzer Division might have had second thoughts about disobeying Helga.
As his head came up between his legs for the third time, he had a sudden vision of drowning in his own spittle and, by a superhuman effort flung out an arm to ward her off. His clawed fingers raked across her body and ripped her bra away. She gasped in pain and surprised pleasure as the garment fell to the floor and Melsham screeched in horror as Helga’s breasts cascaded down on him, closely followed by Helga herself, who had misunderstood Melsham’s intentions, uttering guttural cries of love that didn’t bear thinking about.
The sudden weight of her body coupled with the sweat and massage oil with which both were liberally coated, shot him free like a cork from a bottle. Taking his opportunity, he shambled sideways over to the door as fast as his crippled legs could take him finding, uneasily, that his left arm refused to realign itself from the perpendicular position above his head that it had somehow adopted, while the knuckles on his right hand brushed the floor, threatening to trip him at every step.
Thwarted by Helsham’s forcible ejection, Helga gave an animal cry and advanced on him, drooling at the mouth. “Meine kleine liebling. Kommen sie hier, du noddy liddle boy.”
Melsham risked one backward glance at the demented figure behind him and then flung himself into the corridor, while Helga gave vent to a scream of frustration and, to the rousing strains of “The Flight of the Valkyries,” picked up her whip and gave chase.