In the room next door, Slipper awoke under the distinct impression that he was witness to an attempted murder. At least, that’s what the noise coming from the other side of the wall told him. In between the crash of toppling machinery and muffled curses, a series of shrill screams suggested that he really ought to think about leaving. Although, on the other hand, agonised exhortations to a ‘stupid fucking bitch’ to ‘put my sodding leg back,’ suggested instead that he might be better advised in hiding in case the ‘stupid fucking bitch’ caught him leaving and took his own leg off. As he lay there, with the sheets pulled up to his chin, a succession of dull thuds from next door, each accompanied by a scream, put him uncomfortably in mind of an axe being driven into a side of bacon. Then, a door opened and, to a blast of hellish music, he heard a crazed whimper retreating at speed up the corridor at a curious shambling gait, followed closely by what sounded suspiciously like whip-cracks. A female voice, professing in German her undying love for whatever had shambled up the corridor, sounded to Slipper, when viewed in the context of the cracking whip, too incongruous to be completely sane. He jumped out of bed and threw the bolt across the door with a speed that surprised him.
The uproar was exciting more than Slipper’s interest. All along the corridor, doors opened and just as quickly shut again as the occupants caught a glimpse of the Wagnerian Helga pursuing the poor, shambling creature that had once been the Earl of Melsham. It couldn’t shamble very far. The corridor ended in a locked door, and Melsham turned with desperation to face the back-lit figure advancing towards him like a Fire-Maiden from the Pits of Hell.
Lil climbed out of bed tetchily. “Leave the place for half-an-hour” she said wearily to herself, “and everything falls apart.” The disturbance had woken her up, too, and now something like a giant rat was scrabbling to get into her room. Another of Helga’s little surprises, by the sound of it. Lil sighed, and hurriedly threw on a wrap. She opened the door and jumped adroitly aside as Melsham’ s contorted body rolled in. Helga stood outside, like the wrath of Valhalla, breasts swaying hugely as the bull-whip cracked back and forth and moaning “Meine liebling. Wer ist meine kleine liebling? His liddle Helga vant him.” Lil stamped her foot. “Helga, dear” she remonstrated “Do pull yourself together, for goodness sake. You’re frightening the clients.”
As if in confirmation, those clients who could least risk being involved in a scandal of the proportions that recent events seemed likely to precipitate, began leaving hurriedly in various states of undress, while their masseuses clustered around the German girl.
“And go and get some clothes on. I don’t know what you look like!” She turned round to the object scuttling around at her feet. “There, now.” Did she hurt you?”
Melsham turned a terrifying face on her “Did she hurt me? Did she fucking well hurt me? he screamed. “I’ll tell you how much she hurt me. I used to keep my arse at the bottom of my back, now look at it!”
Melsham was in rather a better position to do that than Lil, but she quite took his point. “Oh dear, oh dear” she said mildly, “We do seem to have got ourselves into a pickle, don’t we. Helga! Come and put his arm back at once!”
Melsham scuttled round behind Lil again. “Oh no, you don’t. You keep the fucking bitch off. She’s done enough already. She’s a bloody lunatic.”
“Oh, hardly that dear, she’s German, you know.”
“German!” Melsham shrieked. “I’ll tell what she is. She’s … ” but the rest of his words were lost in a solid outpouring of Wagner from Helga’s room.
“Oh, Helga, do go and turn that off” cried Lil, in exasperation, and watched the rather forlorn figure of the blonde giant traipse back down the corridor, dragging her whip behind her. When silence again reigned, Lil turned to Melsham. She had seen some sights in her time but Melsham’s predicament was something of a revelation to her. “I shouldn’t worry” she said soothingly “It’ll soon wear off.”
“Wear off!” Melsham snarled “That bloody woman nearly tore it off! I’ll sue. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll have your guts for garters!”
If there was one thing Lil wasn’t afraid of, it was being cited in the compensation courts. For one thing, her profession ensured complete immunity - most of her clients would never stand the scandal. For another thing, her best clients would be likely to have to sit in judgement on her. Although this particular client was a new one on Lil, there was no reason to expect that his circumstances were any different from any of the others. “Now, don’t be silly, dear. You know you won’t do that.” Lil dismissed Melsham’ s threat with a peremptory wave of her hand, leaving him fuming with impotent rage and frustration.
With Helga’s departure, the melee in the corridor thinned out as the masseuses returned to their rooms and the last of the clients hopped down the stairs, simultaneously drawing on a pair of trousers inside out. When everyone had gone about their business again, Lil turned to Lord Melsham, who was busily engaged in a corner trying to force his left arm down to somewhere approximating its natural position. His temper had not abated. “What sort of a fucking place do you run here?” he snarled.
Lil bridled primly. “Well, I hardly think there’s any call for such strong language. I like to think that I run a respectable establishment here.” She looked at Melsham’s twisted frame with a professional eye and tried a tweak here, a twist there, to put some logic back in the mangled body. As she worked, to an accompaniment of groans from Melsham, she rattled on. “Helga’s a new girl - and very popular with some of my gentlemen, I might add - but she does tend to get a wee bit enthusiastic if you don’t watch her. Did I say she’s German? She learned all her tricks from her grandfather, you know. A dab hand he was with the thumb screws, by all accounts, and as for electric shocks, well... . Doesn’t speak much English yet. Still, I expect you found that out. It was all probably a big misunderstanding. I ought to have been there, really, when you booked in. It’s not fair leaving Helga on the desk but, I thought, with lunchtime being over and all, it would all be quiet. Mind you, I don’t know what I’d do without her. A Godsend she’s been. Strong as an ox and as loyal as they come. That’s the Germans for you, see?”
Melsham gave up trying to interject the odd, barbed, comment. Lil’s ramblings gave him no opportunity. Besides, her manipulations were having a remarkably soothing effect on his twisted limbs, and the hypnotic ripple of whatever she kept under the flimsy wrap a similar, if rather more disturbing, effect on his mind.
When Lil had finished, Melsham looked more like the human being he had been when he came in earlier in the afternoon, although his left arm still had a tendency to elevate itself of its own free will. “There, that’s better,” said Lil, Then, looking at her watch, “My goodness, is that the time? My 3 o’clock client will be arriving any second. You’ll have to excuse me while I get dressed.” She looked pointedly at Melsham gingerly trying out his joints. “I think you’d better get some clothes on, as well”
Melsham suddenly realised that, all this time, he had been naked as a baby, and grabbed a towel hanging over the foot of Lil’s bed. “If you think I’m going back in there” he pointed down the corridor “you’ve got another think coming lady.”
Lil tutted. “Oh, don’t be silly. Helga won’t hurt you now. Come on. I’ll take you down and have a word with her.” She took hold of his arm and led him down the corridor, a be-towelled Melsham hobbling after her like an overweight toddler.
Through the crack of his half-open door, Slipper confirmed his suspicions with amazement. He thought he had recognised that voice. What was Lappit doing here? More to the point, had he made himself known to Lil? He didn’t want anything to jeopardise the plans he was laying and pressed his ear to the wall as the couple moved into the room next door. There was Iittle to be heard to start with. The German girl was sobbing quietly. Lil spoke to her indistinctly, and got some sort of broken reply, and then led her out of the room still wearing half a bikini but having now relinquished the whip. As they left, Lil told Melsham to get himself dressed while she took Helga away to talk to her, and said that she hoped he would not be dissuaded from returning to the Massage Parlour again and that, if he ever did come back, he should ask for Lil personally. Melsham made some sort of non-committal reply, and Lil left.
On the other side of the wall, Melsham started to dress. He looked around him at the implements littering the room now that the lights had been switched on and, since the immediate danger had been removed, he could see the possibilities of their function, in the right hands. In the hands of a psychopathic German nymphomaniac there was no telling what sort of damage they might have inflicted on a human body. He shuddered and finished dressing, mumbling to himself in quiet monologue. “What a bloody nutter. It’s not as if I asked her to flay me alive. I mean, I like a bit of flagellation and bondage as much as the next man…but castration and maiming? The woman belongs in an Institution.” He limped out, struggling to pull his jacket on.
Slipper took his ear away from the wall and, with a vicious gleam in his eye, watched Melsham limp painfully away down the corridor.