As Veronica made her way across the Heath, feeling the grass, rigid and prickly, now that the temperatures were plunging, under her tired and sore feet, the cat followed eagerly behind her. Cuddlywinks was looking appreciatively up at her perfect young buttocks as they gyrated their sexy way across the sward. The adoring cat was salivating at that beautiful prospect. He really was a very lecherous pussy! She looked around a couple of times and was horrified at the look of fascinated intensity on those furry little features.
By this time all nocturnal wanderers, young lovers, voyeurs and cruisers seemed to have deserted the great outdoors for the night and decamped indoors where it was warm and cosy. Veronica reflected that she did not blame them. Even fully clothed, it must be uncomfortable out here. And she was not clothed at all, as her chattering teeth reminded her from time to time! She considered picking up the long-haired cat again, but remembered his partiality for her firm young maidenly breasts and thought better of it.
When she came to the road (East Heath Road), she decided that it would be best if she did carry the animal in case a late night motorist might drive by and maybe run him over or frighten him back onto the Heath.† This time, thanks be to heaven, he was a good cat and contented himself with burying his sweet little head between her twin mounds of soft and fragrant flesh, purring loudly and alternately retracting and extending his claws, somewhat to the sensitive Veronicaís discomfort.
It was when the pair of them was half way through the connecting road to the High Street when Cuddlywinks suddenly became agitated. With a sinuous wriggle, he broke free from Veronicaís grasp and landed on the pavement, immediately scooting off up a side street.
She ran after him, anxious that she should not lose him now after getting him safely all this way towards his home.† Cuddlywinks ran up to a house half-way along the street and jumped up onto the front room window sill. Then he commenced crying loudly.† It was a noise which seemed capable of summoning the dead back from the other side of the grave, however glad they might have been to bid the cruel world farewell!
Despite the late hour, the window opened after a very few seconds and a pair of hands came out and grasped the animal. These hands belonged to an elderly lady, who was obviously CuddlywinksĎs owner and equally obviously a very relieved and happy lady.† "Oh, my darling little boy! Youíve come back to me! Where HAVE you been, you naughty boy?" she said in a voice that was not far removed from tears.
ĎSo, he recognized he was back on familiar ground and didnít need me any longer! Well, thatís one happy pussy and one happy owner, both together again and thanks to me. How nice!í thought Veronica as she prepared to make for her home, now only a couple of minutes walk away.
But the catís owner had spotted Veronica and the girl caught the ladyís astounded gaze as she stared open-mouthed at the tall, disheveled and gloriously nude, if shivering,† blonde, standing directly under a lamp post.
"What are you doing out there like that?" she gasped. "Some kind of stunt, or are you in trouble. Do you want me to phone the Police?"
"Oh, no. Thanks all the same. I found your cat while walking on the Heath and was going to take him back with me and phone you in the morning, but he managed the last bit by himself. Heís a very engaging little fellow, he really is!"
"So, I have you to thank! I simply canít tell you how grateful I am. I have no friend in the world apart from this little chap! Please come inside for a minute or two and have a cup of cocoa or tea or whatever you like! Maybe something a little stronger?"
Veronica accepted the elderly ladyís invitation. She was not likely to eat or drink for some hours and the thought of a cup of something hot and hopefully intoxicating was very tempting indeed.† She came indoors and was ushered into a wonderfully comfortable armchair, into which she lowered her aching body with an enormous sigh of relief.
As Veronica appreciated the comfort of the armchair and waited for the hot drink to materialize, she felt the warmth seeping back after the freezing walk across the Heath. If she got out of this with anything less than a severe cold, it would be a miracle! But she felt the shivering gradually ease. She looked at her feet and inspected them minutely now that feeling was painfully returning - no signs of frostbite, by a miracle! No matter! For the present, she was beginning to feel alive again.
The lady, introducing herself as Miss Andrea Ferguson, soon came bustling in with a cup of cocoa, laced with fine old brandy. A shameful waste of a good Armagnac, thought the fastidious Veronica, but she was in no mood to query anything right now and sipped gratefully for a few minutes, feeling the drink pleasurably warming her .
She gave Miss Ferguson a very abbreviated account of her day† so far and the events leading up to her finding the errant Cuddlywinks, by this time sleeping peacefully and deeply after his first proper meal in several days.† The old lady nodded as she came to end of her story.
"Iím so glad you will refuse to take the money and yet still carried on with your mission. As you say, it will be an act of penitence in a way. And it has certainly produced good!† Just look at the little darling, home and snug once again! Iíll never be able to thank you enough, not if I live to be one hundred!"
Veronica declined the proffered reward, saying that the pleasure of seeing the pair of them re-united was reward enough. (Which indeed, it was.)
She looked up at the old clock on the mantelpiece and saw that if she were to be home before dawn, she was running out of time and had better leave soon.† She thanked the lady for the drink and gave the cat a farewell pat on the head. The animal was too fast asleep by this time to notice.
In a few seconds she was once more in the street and yet another door closed behind her, leaving her to face the rigours of the cold for a few more minutes. "Surely I canít meet with any more adventures in the last few yards" she thought.
Veronica got to the end of the street where the old lady lived and resumed the interrupted journey to her home. She kept a careful watch for the odd late night reveler and, more importantly, for any nocturnal policemen/women, whether on foot or motorized. She reached Hampstead High Street without mishap, save for the fact that she was already getting to feel as cold as ever.
Crossing this wide thoroughfare was the worst moment since leaving the comparative security of the Heath. Any insomniac looking out of his or her window at that instant would have had a wonderful view of her as the bright street lights shone down on her, revealing every single feature of her noble and curvaceous body, gleaming white, as she sped across the road and headed for her block of apartments.† She was a fit and athletic young lady, as I have already said several times, and her neighbours would never have seen her physically toned perfection to better advantage as she ran gracefully up the slope to her home. Happily, insomnia was not a problem with anybody tonight.
But, sadly for our by now exhausted heroine, a group of returning revelers did happen to pass by at this time. The sound of their maudlin delight rent the air.
"Nice one darling! Lovely f*cking arsehole! Now turn round and letís have a look at the front. Come on sweetheart".
She ignored this cacophonous and very unwelcome compliment and hurried towards the door. It seemed that the young men were debating among themselves whether to come and inspect her at close quarters and a consensus seemed to be quickly emerging to the effect that this would be an excellent idea. She heard the sound of their hilarity getting closer and panicked.
The street door to the apartment block was opened by punching the correct combination into a keypad and then pushing the door open. But her fingers were numb and she was shivering, partly from the cold and partly out of fear of what these awful hooligans might do to her. At the best, the noise might cause the police to be summoned - and she didnít care to think too long or too hard about the worst possible outcome!
For a few horrible moments, she was afraid that she had forgotten the combination altogether, that the horrors of the day had driven it forever and irretrievably out of her mind. Then it came to her again and she tried keying it in for the seventh time, as the sound of footsteps and ribaldry came ever nearer. It was only after several more increasing despairing attempts that she got the door open and scrambled inside, pushing it shut just as the first of the yobs ran up to it. Saved in the nick of time!
Veronica was so distressed by this time that it was several minutes before she could think about going upstairs to her own apartment. In order not to make any noise she elected to use the staircase rather than the lift and skipped lightly up the steps, feeling the deep piled bottle-green carpet under her poor sore and tired feet - those feet which had borne the brunt of todayís adventures and carried her all the way from the Elephant and Castle to Dalston and then across North London and Hampstead Heath to bring her finally to her own dearly beloved home.
Her door was the third one along the corridor and she prepared to sink down outside it and sleep like a log until discovered in the morning. Then she saw something that brought her heart right up into her mouth and almost made her faint away on the spot!
Safely back home after a day of humiliation and adventure, the beautiful Veronica had expected to be obliged to spend a few hours lying on the carpet outside her apartment. In the morning, when the street door automatically unlocked, a member of Andrew Vane-Clatworthyís staff would come up and return her shoulder bag, containing her keys, cheque book and other personal items. Imagine, therefore, her astonishment at beholding her keys still in the lock of her apartment door!
"Well!† Thatís a bit of luck! I must have forgotten them in the excitement this morning and left them in the lock, and theyĎve been there all day! Very careless, but what a wonderful time to have a memory lapse!
It was assuredly very unlike Veronica to make ANY mistakes, no matter how trivial. She was famous at work for her reliability and attention to detail. But we all slip up sometimes!
She let herself in to her apartment and went straight to the shower, standing under its blessed heat for many long minutes, feeling her chilled body become restored and warmed. Then she dried herself off and looked at her tall and athletic young body in her full length bathroom mirror. Not too many ill effects, she decided. A few bruises and scratches here and there, maybe; but the overall effect of her hours of total exposure was to leave her looking very healthy indeed! Glowing was the operative word!† The parts of her usually well covered body that had been bare from the very first hours of her adventure were somewhat red from the sun and the more intimate regions that had waited until late afternoon to be revealed to the world were scarcely even pink!
For some reason, she regretted that parts of her were still an almost pure and virginal white. She had a sudden and uncharacteristic urge to procure for her pneumatic body an all-over tan at the very first opportunity.† Her mind became instantly resolved!
She would send off for some brochures in the morning! Once she had details of sundry exotic and sybaritic holidays in far away and very sunny places, she would book herself a few weeks of Paradise! At the same time, she wondered what Douglass would think about this. He had better go along with it, she thought - goodbye Douglass if he did not!
She looked out of the window and saw that it was still dark. It would not be for long, though, she thought, before the eastern sky became paler with the approach of another rosy dawn. Time for her to grab her weary mind and body a few hoursí desperately needed sleep. She still had a job to go to and without the million from the old man she would need to do her level best to keep it.
The idea of being kept , for the remainder of her days,† by her beloved did appeal to her more than she would ever have thought before yesterday, but† she had no idea when their marriage would take place. It might all have been one of those sudden infatuations that vanish away in the cold light of day. Not that it had faded for her, though!† She still trembled as she thought of that embrace under the streetlight in Kentish Town!
She got into her bed and breathed a great sigh of pure satisfaction as she slid her still naked body between the smooth and faultlessly laundered sheets. The softness and warmth of her lovely luxurious bed immediately started their work on her. In seconds she was fast asleep.† She dreamt of many things, all the events of the past day jumbled up into the most fantastic series of adventures, most of which involved a tall handsome Scotsman and a variety of grotesques and eccentrics. And she was nude throughout!† Miss Prosser had just erupted into the dream and started trying to drag Veronica away from the embrace of Douglass, when she woke up.
The sun was high up in the sky when she emerged from these feverish dreams. A look at her bedside clock told her that she would be very late for work indeed!
She rose and prepared herself quickly, finally donning one of her sober, smart and somberly dark business outfits. She looked at her reflection and sighed. Somehow she was far less satisfied about her customary smartness than of late! Perhaps she could make herself look a little less like an old maid, she told herself. At the weekend she must think about acquiring a few new outfits - something a little more colourful and revealing of her young and perfect body.
She looked in at the porterís lodging on her way out and enquired whether or no anything had been left for her and was very surprised to be told that nothing had. Just as well she had left her keys in the lock, she thought. Sheíd still be locked out and very publicly naked if she had not. How extraordinary of the old man to have broken his word! He was famous for living up to all his promises. Maybe he had been taken ill - all the excitement of sitting opposite the naked girl, playing game after game of chess, might have been too much for his aged heart!
As she slipped into her office, almost ninety minutes later than her usual time of arrival, her immediate superior came up to her and asked her if she would step into the bossís office as a matter of extreme urgency. "I know what itís all about, Veronica, but I mustnít say what myself. Hurry along - heís in an impatient mood today!"
ĎThis is it,í she thought, Ďthe axe is about to fall. Never mind, Iíll soon find another job, and the enforced rest and time for sorting my life out will be good for me!í
She made herself a quick cup of coffee and† adjusted her dress before a hand mirror - a totally pointless exercise as she was already quite impeccably tidy, intimidatingly so - in fact. But if you are going to be fired, you should always look your best!
She marched along the corridor to the self important and rather tiresome bossís lavishly furnished office and knocked on the door.
"Come in Veronica," he called out.
She did, and with a heavy heart. He beamed at her.
"So glad you were finally able to make it, my dear. I see we have reverted to our customary conventional attire today. What a crying shame! Please sit down, my much valued and greatly talented Veronica. We have a lot to talk about!"
Veronica lowered her sweet posterior into one of the comfortable chairs. She crossed her legs elegantly, reflecting how much less of those long and sleekly muscular thighs was on view than the day before, and looked uncertainly at her boss.† Mr. Travers got up from behind his desk and sat opposite her. His usually uncommunicative features melted into an unaccustomed and somewhat sinister smile. The contortions of his face as he tried to convey an uncharacteristic message of benevolence were almost frightening in their ineptitude.
"Would you like a drink, my dear Veronica? I know itís early in the day, but how about a spot of the old bubbly. Donít refuse!"
He got up and went into his secretaryís sanctum, returning with a pair of glasses and a large bucket, in which reposed, among many lumps of ice, a large bottle of what Veronica recognized to be a very superior Champagne. This interview was very definitely NOT going the way she had anticipated!
After her boss had none too expertly opened the bottle and poured them both a glass, spilling a great deal of expensive sparkling wine upon the officeís maroon coloured carpet in the process,† he leaned back in his chair and laughed in a falsely casual way.
"Well, my exquisite Veronica!† I suppose you wonder what this is all about. Iíll come straight to the point.† Yesterday, over a drink in the Lamb Tavern, where incidentally I had the pleasure of seeing your delightfully and splendidly less conventionally clothed self, I agreed with Wilkins that our two firms should merge as of pretty well immediate effect."
Veronica froze with horror and her heart started to work overtime. Sweat appeared on her brow and her head reeled dizzily. She had actually been seen by her boss in that ghastly outfit - or lack of an outfit by that time! What was the man playing at?† Surely he should just sack her out of hand and not subject her to all this rigmarole?
He continued. "Well, it will mean a lot of changes, I fear - this merger. As you know, business is very slack lately and there is just about enough work between the two companies to support the staff of only one of them - if that. Wilkins has, very obligingly, agreed to fade into the background, leaving me in effective charge of the combined outfit.† Benson and Fortescue, (Bensonís opposite number, in Wilkinsís outfit), are taking early retirement - unwillingly, but on generous enough terms. We both agreed that you should take over their combined jobs. It goes without saying that your pay will be considerably increased. - another 15,000 a year to start with. Alas, my dear young lady, there wonít be any fat Christmas bonuses for a year or two, but things canít be as bad as this for ever. The darkest hour comes just before the dawn and all that! Iím sure that when the market picks itself up off the floor - in that happy time, you will do very well. Youíll be worth millions by the time youíre thirty! Guaranteed, my sweet, darling, talented and beautiful Veronica! Well! What have you got to say?"
His darling Veronica had very little say for some seconds and contented herself with sipping at her glass of champagne - not her favourite tipple by a long chalk, but a welcome corrective to the shock and mental turmoil she was experiencing. A few days ago she had been looking forward to redundancy and desperately clutching at the straw of Vane-Clatworthyís challenge and now she was on the threshold of a brilliant career! Quite a turn up for the book!
Finally she had enough confidence in her ability to talk with some kind of approximation to her normal voice. She cleared her throat and shook her head as if to clear away cobwebs.
"I canít begin to thank you, Mr. Travers, Sir! Iíll make sure you donít ever have cause to regret the faith you have shown in me. I can still hardly believe all this is happening. ItĎs been a pretty extraordinary couple of days for me."
"Yes! I would be interested to here about yesterdayís little escapade sometime - although itís a busy time right now for me as you can imagine. I suggest you go and arrange the hand over with Benson and tootle over to Wilkinsís office and take a look at their set-up. You wonít have a lot of spare time for the next few weeks, Iím afraid. Be here at seven tomorrow morning, my dear. We will be having a bit of a combined power breakfast and brain-storming session. Bye for now!"
Her head still spinning with her stupefaction at such a sudden and favourable change in her fortunes, Veronica wandered back to her own office and was soon deep in discussion with the soon to be departed Benson.† As soon as she had shaken hands with him and bid him farewell, she went across to the offices of the other firm and spent the rest of the morning there.
On returning to her own place of work, she was told she had a visitor. In her office, ensconced in her favourite chair was the beloved Douglass. After finally and most reluctantly disengaging herself from a very enjoyable embrace, she frowned.
"What happened to you this morning, darling? Luckily I had forgotten to take my keys with me and left them in the lock - else Iíd never have got inside."
Douglass looked at her and laughed.
"Now, Veronica! You KNOW youíd never slip up like that! Not you - I know enough about you by this time. Think, darling. Think!"
Veronica thought. "You mean?"
"Yes, my angel. I went back to Andrew as soon as I had said goodbye to you, filched the keys out of your red shoulder bag and drove straight over to your place. The street door was still open, even at that late hour, thank Heaven, and I went up and left them in your door. I wasnít having you sleeping out in the corridor - not after all youíd been through. Iíd have waited there for you until you turned up if need be. Donít worry - Andrew agreed to it, so you havenít broken the terms of the agreement."
"So it was thanks to my darling Douglass, I got to be bed last night. Come back here and be kissed again you darling lovely man!"
The two lovers finally parted, she to continue the reorganization and he to help run his employerís business empire.
†It was not until Saturday that they met again. It was a glorious day - a real harbinger of summer - and Veronica gladly agreed to be driven by him to a remote sandy beach on the East Coast. There were no other people around and soon they were both plunging naked into the still icy waters of the North Sea.
After a most enjoyable swim and shivering happily together they dried each other off and settled down to enjoy each otherís company for a few hours until it was time to go back to London.
"And what are you going to do with all this lovely money, my darling?" asked Douglass, as he emerged from a sweet exploration of her secret places.
"What money? I only get another fifteen thousand a year - peanuts, really. Itíll be years before I am earning serious money."
"When did you last check your balance, my darling angel?" Douglass asked.
"Not for days. I should have a balance of about twelve thousand. I havenít had the time to check."
"Well - when you get home, check it. You can access your details online? Now letís get back to having fun!"
They had a lot of fun and all too soon it was time to be heading home.
Douglass and the wearily happy Veronica returned back to Hampstead late that night and Veronica gratefully declined Douglassís offer to spend the night with her. She was an old fashioned person and had some scruples about too much intimacy before marriage. And so he sadly slunk away, hoping that this state of affairs would not last.
After church on Sunday, at which time she was able to confess her guilt about her late greed, for which she was by this time very contrite, Veronica recollected Douglassís words, spoken to her on the beach the day before. Having nothing better to do, she switched on her computer and logged in to her bank account.
Instead of checking out the twelve thousand pounds she had mentioned to Douglass as the approximate size of her balance, she found herself gazing transfixed at the enormous total that shimmered before her startled gaze. She had had quite few surprises lately, but this was still startling in the extreme. Two million and twelve thousand pounds and seventy three pence was the message that the screen was sending to her reeling senses.
She was soon on the phone to Douglass, asking if he knew anything about this.
"Yes. I know all about it! Andrew had access to your bank details from the contents of your bag. He arranged the transfer to your account first thing on Thursday morning. He felt very guilty about all the hard and humiliating things he had put you through, especially after I told him about our falling in love. ThatĎs why he doubled the amount the two of you had previously agreed upon. He wants you to think of it as a sort of wedding present in advance! He didnĎt say anything - just wanted it to be a surprise for you when you found out!"
"Well, it was certainly that! I still am in a state of severe shock. I think you should come around and administer some therapy! Hurry up and be quick, but drive safely!!"
They spent the afternoon continuing to get to know more about each other, but Veronica would still not allow him to spend a night with her.
"You really are out the Ark in a lot of ways, my sweet. But I am happy to wait, if thatís what you insist on."
"It is! Goodnight Douglass! Sleep well!"
And with a tinkling merry laugh she pushed him out of her flat into the cold and lonely night.
The next few weeks were every bit as hectic as the boss, Mr. Travers - now addressed by Veronica as Frederick, had promised.† Finally, though, things became calmer, the new organization bedded down and Veronica was able to contemplate taking a few daysí holiday. Douglass was happy to get away as well and so they found themselves relaxing together on a Mediterranean beach, procuring a deep and rich all -over tan. To Douglassís deepening disgust, though, it was still very much a case of Ďlook but donít touchí.
On their last night as he prepared to part from her before they went to their separate rooms, it became too much for him and he exploded.
"Iíve never met a girl like you, Veronica. People just donít behave like that nowadays. Do you know what century this is for Godís sake?"
"So all your other conquests slid gratefully between the sheets and gratefully surrendered their trembling young womanhood to your pulsating manhood at the first opportunity, did they! Little sluts!† Well - this conquest wonít. So there!"
And with these words she slammed the door on him so loudly that his ears were still ringing when he finally got himself off to a lonely sleep some time later.
The next morning was their last in the resort and soon they were winging their way homewards, neither one of them talking to the other. At the airport they parted, still without speaking. Veronica hoped it was not goodbye for ever but had a fear that it might well be. She only half understood her behaviour herself and realized how mystified and hurt poor old Douglass must be. After all, she had let that dyke Prosser woman do pretty well what she liked to her on that famous evening at Andrewís hideaway in Kentish Town.† But with a man it was different, she told herself.†
She would feel soiled and terribly cheap if she allowed him to go too far before they married - IF they married! Maybe she was very old fashioned, but Douglass would just have either to like that or do the other thing. It was sad, though, and she was very unhappy at how things had turned out. Perhaps they could marry very soon and all this nonsense would be over. But somehow, she didnít feel quite ready to surrender her independence just yet awhile!
On her way to the office on her first day back at work, she went into a newsagentís to buy a paper, still thinking about Douglass and cursing herself for her scruples. As she was on her way out, she saw a magazine on one of the upper shelves. Another shock sent its waves of perturbation through her brain and caused that horrible churning feeling in her stomach. From the cover of one of the magazines she saw her terrified face and naked bound body looking down at her! She bought a copy of the periodical and left the shop trembling and clutching the magazine to her firm bosom. One bloody thing after another, she repeatedly told herself. Whatever next?
She almost ran into the building giving only the most perfunctory acknowledgments to the various people who greeted her and hoped she had enjoyed her holiday. She reached her own office.
"I donít want any calls or visitors for half an hour," she said to her secretary and hurried into her room, carefully closing the door behind her. She didnít even pause to remove her jacket before sitting down,† eagerly opening the magazine and reading all about the film in which she had briefly appeared and since almost forgotten.
It seemed that the film, low budget piece of unutterable rubbish though it was, had acquired some kind of cult status in the few weeks since its release† on video and Veronica, with her stunning body, as the ritually disemboweled virgin sacrifice,† had contributed in no small measure to its surprising success.† The article she was reading was a speculation as to the identity of this mysterious young woman, whose name had not appeared on the credits.
ĎOh, NO!í was her first reaction. This was no way to be a successful City tycoon! Her gorgeous body spread tastily with wide-open legs over the front of cheap sleazy periodicals. Too late now, though. She could hardly rush around buying up every copy she could find and destroying them. All she could do was hope that her colleagues were all much too fastidious and serious minded to read crap like this. A vain hope, as she was soon to find out!
When she went out to lunch, later in the day, it was obvious to the sensitive Veronica that she was being looked at in a very different way than usual by several male members of staff. As she left the office and went out into the corridor she was convinced that a loud sneeze was merely an attempt to disguise a snigger. There were one or two very unwelcome grins on several faces. Oh dear!
On going home after a very embarrassing day, Veronica found a letter awaiting her. She opened it and saw that it was from Algernon, the director of the film. A piece of paper fluttered out and fell to the ground. She saw that it was a cheque, and one for quite a lot of money - two hundred thousand pounds, in fact! HOW MUCH!! But - she was getting used to surprises by now, and took this latest in a long line totally in her stride. She read the letter.
"Dear Miss Harmsworth,
"Owing to the unexpected and phenomenal success of our little cinematic endeavour, I am able to enclose your share of the financial windfall that this success has brought us all.
"The popularity of the film was very largely due to your own all too brief appearance (as well as the photograph of you which appeared prominently on the video package.)
"I wonder if you could be persuaded to appear in a follow up production which I plan to launch upon the public in the next few months. If you are interested - and I fervently hope that you are - give me a call at the earliest opportunity
"Yours gratefully and sincerely
"Great!" she muttered. "A whole new life stretches ahead of me as a nude icon and star of trash sexploitation cinema!† Still - the money will be handy." (She had already spent quite a lot of her two million pounds - amazing how fast it goes!)
There was another letter waiting for her and she recognized the writing with a stab of pain in her heart. It was from Douglass, from whom she had not heard since arriving back from that rather disastrous holiday.
"My Ever More Darling Veronica,
"I have to go to the States for a few months on important business. I shall already be on my way there when you get this letter. When I return, perhaps we can get together again. I canít live without you, my angel. Please say you still love me. I could not bear it if you didnít.
"All my undying love
Two tears made their symmetrical and salty way down each cheek as she read this.
"I wonder if heíll still feel the same when he gets home?" she thought.† Then she forced herself to cheer up and phoned the Director, Mr. FitzWalter. He sounded ecstatic to hear from her.
"When can you be free to start, Veronica? I know what a big shot you have become this last few weeks! Really I thought we might be rather beneath your notice, by this time."
"No. I need the money. Iíve just bought a lovely house, overlooking the Heath,† which Iím moving into soon and furniture is very expensive and there are all sorts of overheads which I hadnít really taken on board before plunging into the purchase. Then thereís the villa in the Greek Islands Iím negotiating for. And this new job isnít bringing in a whole lot just now, what with the markets being in the dire state they are. No, Algy! I canít possible afford to turn this down - even if I wanted to - which I donít. Iíd love to collaborate with you all again!"
As she heard herself say this, she realized that she did really want to do this. After all, now she was known to have appeared in one production, her reputation was already that of a woman who led a double life, alternating respectability during the working week with bizarre and scandalous activities in her leisure hours!† What had she to lose?
"Do I get to wear clothes in this next production?" she asked. The answer came as no great surprise!
"Only briefly at the very beginning and even then nothing much - you are kidnapped while holidaying in Spain and are sunbathing, at the moment of your capture, in nothing more than the most daringly minute thong. You soon lose that and spend a great deal of time in cellars and dungeons undergoing much bondage and torture before the final sacrifice scene on a remote and desolate beach on the East Coast of England with a howling cold wind blowing across the scene and under dark grey skies. We will have to choose a moment when the weather is right, but I doubt weíll have too long to wait! The forecast for next weekend is very promising from our point of view."
"This time, you will be happy to hear, you are to be rescued in the nick of time by your loving boyfriend, who has doggedly followed the trail from Spain to the site of your sacrifice, just as the wicked and razor sharp blade is flashing in the air ready to begin its deadly downward sweep towards your quivering stomach. Very touching scene, that!"
With some reservations - she would have preferred a less passive and more heroic role, to be honest - Veronica arranged to take a few days off at the end of next week and commence filming. She was told that the scenes on the coast would be done first, (weather permitting) and then the various dungeon scenes. Finally they would take her to Spain to film her abduction. As before, this was going to be a pretty low budget affair and a lot hung on Veronica - again, as before.
"Going to be in any more films in the near future, Veronica?" asked one of her subordinates, with an impertinent smile, when she went in to the office next day.
"Yes - I hope so. Now get on with your work if you want to still have a job by the end of the week." she replied icily and went and shut herself in her room.
"I wonder how much Iíll make out of this one" she thought. She went over to the mirror and looked herself over with a critical gaze. Even under her sober business clothes she could see that she was still in superb shape. With a larger role, she should certainly attract much more enthusiasm even than before. Maybe that nice gleaming new Bentley would be affordable sooner than she had thought! She certainly hoped so - she was getting very bored with the BMW. Now that Douglass was no longer in her life, she needed little luxuries like that to deaden the pain of separation!
Veronica shivered but was not seriously upset as the cold and clammy English air touched and chilled her quivering and velvety skin once more. All the excitement of that amazingly uncomfortable day of humiliation and wonderful self discovery came back to her and set every nerve end tingling. It was very obvious to Algernon and the rest of the film crew that the shedding of her clothes had strangely and wonderfully energized the girl - vitalized her. Her skin reacted well to the touch of the cool wind, the gooseflesh soon subsiding to a lustrous silky smoothness as her healthy young body quickly and easily adjusted to the fall in temperature; it positively shone in the grey light† and her eyes were bright with the excitement and enjoyment of the situation.
Although the sacrifice and rescue scene were only to take up a few short minutes of the finished product, they spent, under Algernonís meticulously fanatical direction, all the daylight hours shooting and re-shooting it.† All this long while poor Veronica was strapped naked to a stone altar very similar to the wooden one she had been tied to on Hampstead Heath all those weeks ago.† There was a wind blowing in from the North Sea and from time to time a light drizzle blew across her long and supple limbs as these splendid members strained and struggled vainly against her well tied restraints.
"Weíll need to stop overnight, Iím afraid, Veronica," explained Algernon as they neared the end of the dayĎs work. "We canít film the rescue scene today, as the boyfriend canít make it until tomorrow. Letís hope the weather doesnít change - that would be unfortunate."
He shivered in the increasing wind and looked with concern at Veronica who had been securely tied down now for most of the day. "Oh! I am sorry! Time to free you and let you put on something nice and warm and get some of that delicious buffet meal and nice warm soup over there inside you!"
Her bonds were finally untied and Veronica raised herself from off the ever colder slab on which she had been resting for so many hours.† She rubbed her wrists and felt the circulation painfully return. She supposed that she ought to be grateful that her day-long ordeal was now over, but to her surprise, she felt a deep sense of regret. She looked perversely forward to the subsequent scenes in which her helpless body was to be cruelly tortured and restrained by the sadist kidnappers!
Algernon proffered her a towel to cover herself with and she brushed it aside. She had some time ago decided that it was not nearly cold enough for her to need to cover up - not just yet awhile! She walked over to the others. They were all helping themselves to the delicious looking (and smelling) food and she seized a goodly portion for herself and began wolfing it down appreciatively. Being tied up all day did wonders for the appetite, she decided!
Now that the dayís filming was over the rest of the cast were finding it less easy to come to terms with the nude Veronica and her, by this time, voluntary and shameless nakedness. Several disapproving glances were aimed in her general direction, but either she was unaware of this or she decided to ignore it.
She was standing a little apart from the rest of the crew when the couple she had met on that famous shooting in Hampstead came up and joined her. She had to rack her brains pretty vigorously before she could come up with their names - but she was a pretty brainy girl and the names came to her soon enough to save her from embarrassment.
"Hi Drusilla! Hi Jeremy! Good to see a couple of familiar and friendly faces! How are things going?"
Drusilla beamed a happy grin, joined in this by an amiable Jeremy. "Oh. Weíre getting married in a couple of weeks. That last crummy film made so much money, thanks to your providential appearance on that memorable cold night that we can afford to set up house much sooner than we ever thought possible. I hope they paid you your share of the takings, by the way!"
Veronica assured them that she had indeed not been omitted from the list of recipients and the three of them squatted down in a friendly way on the ground. Jeremy looked stealthily at the naked Veronica, but his fiancťe saw where his eyes were roaming and playfully and painfully slapped his wrist!
"Thatís enough of that, you pervert! Just a couple of weeks and youíll have the sight of me any time you want."
"You mean to say that Jeremyís still not seen you naked!" Veronica was amazed. Perhaps, after all, she was not the only old fashioned girl left alive on the earth in this new century!
"No! Not since that orgy scene we did on Hampstead Heath when we first met you!" Jeremy pulled a long and tragic face. "I have to put the ring on her finger first before I get to enjoy the sweet fruits of love. What a sodding bloody bore - talk about Victorian! Itís as well for her that I love her so much!† I bet you donĎt kid around with your blokes like that"
Veronica laughed in a hollow kind of way. Her mind went all the way across the wide Atlantic to wherever in that vast and distant continent her love was located at that precise second.† She wiped her eyes quickly to brush away the tears that were forming and threatening to course their way down her cheeks.
She sniffed and then spoke "No, Jeremy! I agree with Drusilla all the way! Marriage is a serious business and you donít want to ruin things by jumping the gun and cheapening your love. Remember that itís a love that has to last a hell of a long time! Iím sure your ultimate act of possession will be all the better for the wait! I sent my very own darling off with a flea in his ear when he tried to make love to me. Drusilla is not the only weird girl in the world, believe you me!"
ĎIt doesnít stop you exposing yourself and all your considerable goodies to the entire film set,í thought Jeremy. He saw only too clearly the cruelly teasing Veronicaís Ďlook but donít touchí approach.† This girl had belatedly discovered that she had the power to turn men weak at the knees and was making the most of it before finally settling down. He could see the total lack of self-consciousness in every line of her body. She certainly wasnít brazenly and crudely showing all her female mysteries to the world, but she wasnít exactly going out of her way to hide them either. He glanced around at the rest of the players and saw that his interest was being shared by all - man and woman alike.
Veronica obstinately resisted the impulse to shiver and wandered over to join up with and chat to another group of players. These were the Satanic cult members who had been preparing to finish her off as the sun rose above the horizon on the occasion of her sacrifice in propitiation of their Dark Lord. They were a surprisingly inoffensive, even effete, bunch of guys, now that they were minus their terrifying masks.
Finally Algernon signaled that they should all make their way back to the hotel, some three miles distant in the nearest small coastal town. Veronica elected not to avail herself of the transport provided, but decided to walk back down the beach. She reluctantly grabbed up enough of her discarded clothing to cover her vital parts for when she finally got to be within sight of human habitation.† For most of the way, though, she remained naked in the increasing wind and ever more heavy drizzle, which had turned into a full-scale downpour long before she got back to the hotel. One or two local worthies out walking their dogs in the rain had a treat that evening which they were to remember with great fondness for years to come!
As she wandered slowly back, her bare feet kicking at the wet sand every now and again and making deep imprints in the beachís formerly pristine surface, she wondered what the other lead actor, the one who played the role of her heroic rescuer, would be like. She had to admit to herself that the prospect of meeting this man who was to have the privilege of seizing her from out of the jaws of Hell was beginning to drive all other thoughts out of her mind.
She did not stay long in the hotel lounge chatting to the others. She went up to her room at shortly after ten. As soon as she rested her blonde head on the pillow, the golden locks spread appetisingly about her, she was asleep and dreaming of Douglass - and also the man she was to meet tomorrow! Oh, frailty - thy name is Veronica!
Thanks to the unfailing unreliability of the British railway system, whether "publicly" or privately owned, there was a hitch!† The knight in shining armour and would-be rescuer of his beloved from the clutches of Satan and his loathsome acolytes - was a little late arriving. Veronica had been strapped down on the cold marble slab for fully ninety five minutes before the proceedings could begin and she was not in a good mood. This was no way to spend a weekend, no matter how rich the rewards! And then the male lead arrived and her heart turned to melted wax!
Surely to Goodness! Men like this only appeared on the pages of glossy magazines, their images cunningly embellished by a combination of the photographerís art and skilful re-touching to resemble nothing that ever truly walked upon two legs, every flaw and imperfection erased and sanitized in order to present the quivering female breast with a vision of perfect masculinity in all its glory. Yet here was a man with the body of a Greek God and the head of a Viking hero, obviously flesh and blood, walking towards her with his hand extended and murmuring his apologies for his late arrival.
"Golly, Veronica! How can I ever apologize enough for all the bother Iíve caused you? When I saw your last film and was told I could play opposite you in this, I was so excited! I only left drama school a few months ago and this could be the launching pad of my career! How can I ever make it up to you?"
Veronica, the memory of her darling Douglass fading ever more into the distance, could think of any number of ways that he could make it up to her! She was a blond herself and the sight of this tall, athletically muscular dream, with that heart-stoppingly splendid golden mass of Nordic hair flowing gloriously down a broad and Herculean back , together with a fashionably unshaven face made her wonder what the offspring of a union between the two of them would be like. An Aryanís dream - she quickly decided.
She gazed up from her slab in to the depths of those clear blue eyes and almost swooned.† From far off, she heard her voice, faint and tremulous, assuring him that he was not to reproach himself. These things happen, after all!
It seemed as if only seconds had passed when Veronica found herself letting herself back into her flat. What a day it had been!
The rescue scene had been shot and re-shot a hundred and one fold and she ought by rights to have lost count of the times she had been clasped in those brawny arms and been given a loving kiss by her rescuer. But she had not lost count! She remembered every single one of those embraces and all the ways each heavenly clinch had differed from the other!
He had said goodbye to her at the end of the day and his closing words at one and the same time buoyed her up and cast her down.
"Itís been great working with you, Veronica" he had said. "You have such incredible talent. I canít believe youíre not a trained actress. I wouldnít have missed today for anything. And now, I must rush to get the train. My wifeís due to give birth any day now and I must get back to her. I know itís all very wimpish and all that, but I really want to be there when she gives birth."
"I hope you get your wish," she had replied. "Although I canít imagine anything more gruesome myself! After seeing your child come out of you-know-what, youíll most likely never be able to face putting your dick back into it as long as you live!"
She was still surprised and ashamed of herself for the crudity and insensitiveness of this parting remark, although Giles had laughed at it at the time. She hoped he had not noticed her temporary infatuation with him. As soon as she got into her bedroom, she saw the face of the distant and maybe lost-for-ever Douglass gazing from the framed portrait by her bedside! She shed tears of shame.† How could she have been so beastly to him? Why would she gladly have allowed that actor do anything he liked to her? And there were still the opening scenes to be filmed where they lazed naked beside the azure Mediterranean! She resolved that next time, her feelings and behaviour would be purely professional. Another resolution was that her film making career would end once this production was over. It wasnít that she didnít like it all, this new life of hers! She liked it all far too much and could see that it was leading her to perdition.
With such good resolutions firmly arrived at, she fell asleep and was immediately in a frenzied dream where she was being ravished by a naked, thrusting Sven! Douglass was standing in the background smiling sadly and shaking his head. The elderly Andrew Vane-Clatworthy was also there, cackling horribly as he watched the blond giant taking possession of VeronicaĎs ardently sweating body.
When she woke up in the morning all the bedclothes were in the worst mess than she could ever remember. Veronica was perspiring her head ached more painfully than she could remember. Half of the bedclothes were on the floor and it seemed as if she had been trying, in her sleep, to strangle herself with the remainder. She was very subdued and thoughtful all day and her boss was obviously concerned Mr. Travers said so.
"Oh! Itís nothing really. Just that I miss Douglass so much now that heís away for months and months. Iíll be OK."
She knew this to be only a part of the truth. A day ago she had been ready to forsake him in favour of Mr. Sven Ebbing and only the fact that this Norse God was married and with a wife expected to give birth at any moment, together with the fact that he lived in Surbiton,† had come between her and her throwing herself at his feet. The last few weeks since her winning the two million pounds had been an extraordinary roller coaster in terms of emotion. She resolved to get a grip on herself before her whole life ran totally out of control. In the meantime she was contracted to finish this wretched film, for which she was beginning to lose all enthusiasm this Monday morning.
The next stage of the filming was to be a long succession of painful ordeals in cellars and gloomy dungeons where her tethered and naked body was to be horribly whipped and tortured. A rack scene was to be the first to be filmed and then on the following weekend, the whippings and beatings. Finally, in three weeks time, they were all to decamp to the Iberian peninsular to film the beach and kidnapping scene as well as the final sacrifice. Then, hopefully, she could wash her hands of her new career, very much the richer financially but less so in other ways.† She was beginning to prefer her old boring and impoverished life.
"You need to scream a lot more convincingly like that, Veronica. Remember that you are being horribly racked with your arms and legs being torn from their sockets, ligament by tortured ligament. It hurts when they do that to you for real, my dear! Or so they tell me at the Torture Garden!† Try to sound as if you are in the most terrible pain - please, sweetie!"
"Just look, Algernon. Anyone could tell this sceneís† faked. Iím not even half-way being stretched. Look at my elbows -† theyíre still bent! Who the fuck you think will be fooled by this shit?† Letís make it a bit more real, shall we? Tell them to stretch me a bit† - yank my arms out of their sockets! If it hurts me† from time to time - well, then Iíll probably be screaming for real!"
"As you wish, my dear. YouĎre right, of course, I suppose we could make this look a tad more realistic. Do you think you could tighten the apparatus, Edwin!"
Edwin, in charge of Special Effects, nodded briefly.† "No sweat, Chief. This is a real working model.† HowĎs this for size, Veronica?"
With this he turned the handle a couple of complete turns and Veronica became taut. Too taut!! It was very uncomfortable and she found it hard to breathe or speak. "Fine" she said, breathlessly. "Just fine."
The rest of the day was a great success, although Veronica swore as she prepared to go home that her throat would never be the same! Not† after all that screeching!† Her legs and arms would be sore for weeks afterwards, what with all those hours stretched out† on the rack! She would never have considered it possible for her body to be so pulled apart for so long and still survive!† However, Algernon was delighted with the dayís work.
"See you next weekend for the rest of your ordeal." he said , as she left.
She got a call from Douglass on the Tuesday before the penultimate shoot. It was a call which must have cost her hero and love a fortune, going on for over two hours - a period of time which passed as if it had only been a micro second. She tearfully told him, time after time, that she only wanted to be married soon!† She even offered to fly out to marry him in America. He dissuaded her with difficulty and promised that he would be back in five weeks, all being well.
"OK. Iíll start organizing things Let me know who you want to invite, my sweet and Iíll get the invitations printed and the church booked. The rector might want to get in touch with you, so youíd better leave a number I can get you at."
Having settled all this Veronica slept somewhat better for the next few nights. On Saturday she turned up at the studio for the next cellar/dungeon scene.
This time she was tied to a kind of rectangular framework with her arms and legs stretched so that her hands and feet were at the four corners of the frame. With such a large construction, even the tall Veronica couldnít fill it completely and she was stretched horribly tightly - a lot worse than last time!
Once again she was obliged to scream and moan in agony as a large man, naked save for a wolf mask, stood in front of her and plied a vicious and cruel leather whip. He was good at his job and didnít touch the apprehensive girl once - or it would have almost sliced her in two! Each time the thing cracked she found it hard not to blink.
"Weíll beak for a cup of tea, now." said Algernon as soon as he was satisfied. "Veronica had better stay put. We donít want all the trouble of arranging her again and getting it wrong. Some film buffs never miss a trick continuity-wise!† And you still need to concentrate on the screaming, Veronica. Remember you are being beaten half to death, by not given a playful slap on the bum by the boyfriend."
As the others had their tea and biscuits, Veronica stayed where she was, suspended and stretched out on the wooden frame! It got more and more uncomfortable. What had started as pins and needles had become to seem like being pierced by white hot pokers.† She had always thought herself able to take a bit of pain, but this was getting to her!† She wondered if these people might not be enjoying themselves above and beyond the call!
The second session featured a different member of the cult. This acolyte beat her back with a leather strap. After a few minutes, during which Algernon was getting more and more uptight about Veronicaís continuing lack of realism, she made a momentous decision.
"OK.! Why not let him whack me for real for a while? It wonít beak my skin - at least not too badly - and any marks he makes will most likely be a sight more realistic than the ones you painted on me! Go on! I bet the guy canít wait. I could see it in his eye this morning!† He was almost salivating as watched his friend working on my stomach and breasts.† Believe me,† heíd just love to beat a girl and make her scream. Well - nowís his chance!"
"If youíre quite sure, Veronica. Just let us know if itís too much. Just say ĎStopí if you canĎt go on with it!"
Veronica asked herself if she were still sane!†† She heard the belt hiss through the air and heard its cracking impact on her smooth young back a millionth of† a second before the pain exploded , alerting every nerve-ending, with a white hot searing pain, which passed through her, starting in her heart and shooting agonizingly through her body right up to the extremities.† The frenzied yell she let out was a sound to gladden the Directorís heart.
"Excellent Veronica! That sounded great! Carry on, Jules!"
ĎJules - so thatís this fellowís name,í thought Veronica as she felt the belt descend on her again - and again and again and again, until twenty red wheals marred the once smooth surface of her tortured back. If she had started off under the delusion that the experience would get easier to bear as time went on, she soon changed her mind. Each fresh assault on her tender young flesh was a whole lot worse than the last. Just as she decided that enough was enough and was about to tell them to stop with what little energy she had left, Algernon brought the scene to a close.
"Splendid, Veronica. Quite splendid. I suggest we get you down from there before you pass out! A most satisfactory day so far, although we certainly havenĎt finished yet awhile!"
"Glad to give satisfaction," muttered Veronica rubbing her wrists and ankles and feeling the circulation return. The agony of the blood beginning to flow again almost surpassed the pain she was feeling to her back. That wretch had certainly held nothing back! She pitied his poor wife, if he had one!
The final part of the day involved the victim being suspended upside down and beaten by yet another masked member of the cult. This time, Algernon took it for granted that she would welcome a bit of realism! As her flesh suffered even more flailing, she wondered if she would ever be the same again. Fortunately, the third tormentor was not a sadist and managed to make a lot of noise without it hurting quite as much as had his colleagueís methodically frenzied onslaught.
They finished by strapping her to yet another contraption in preparation for beating the soles of her feet with yet another belt.
"Go easy on her, Roberto!" said the anxious Algernon. "We donít want her still to be limping when we do the beach scenes. Let us know if itĎs doing too much damage, darling, and weĎll just have to put in a few sound effects."
"No - I started this idea. Carry on. You get to love it after a while - honestly." said our suffering heroine, lying through her teeth.
She had been thinking more and more about her love in America and her near betrayal of him the other day. This ordeal was no more than a just punishment for her almost infidelity. She saw the last of her captors raise his arm and saw and heard the belt swish through the air and land on the soles of her feet.† This time, as the pain again invaded every extremity, she welcomed it - up to a point.
Finally, after what seemed a month, but was only an hour or so, the Director was satisfied with the scene, after shooting and re-shooting it a dozen times. Through all of this, Veronica allowed the beating to continue and screamed as if she would wake the dead. They released her and she put her feet on the ground and rose unsteadily upright, unsure if she had it in her to remain standing on those sore and battered feet. Veronica had never felt so ill in all her life. She managed a few tottering steps and realized with great relief that none of the many delicate bones in her bruised and tortured feet had been broken. The man had known how far he could safely go and she walked the length of the studio and back, feeling stronger all the time.
"Excellent, my dear. And now the scenes with you in the suspended cage and we can all go home after a good dayís work!"
In the midst of all the agony inflicted on her earlier on, Veronica had forgotten this part of the action.† She remembered now. Part of the hideous series of tortures that the black magicians were to put her through was to put her in a tiny† barred cage, barely large enough to contain her, and lower her several times in to a vast vat of extremely hot water.
The steam rising from the water was provided by the use of dry ice, so she had nothing to fear from being scalded alive. No. The discomfort would come from being stuck inside that hellishly tiny cage until the increasingly finicky Director was satisfied that the scene had been done to his satisfaction. They had told her of this scene a few weeks ago and she had been dreading it ever since.
Veronica began to feel the most acute discomfort after only seconds of her restricted and contorted posture in the tiny cage. In ten minutes she began to be in the most appalling agony and almost wished she were back being flogged again. At least she had been comparatively free before, even if it had been painful. As she had feared and forecast, the pernickety Algernon was in no hurry to bring her ordeal to an end and kept on ordering segments of the scene to be re-shot and re-re-shot, time without number. The minutes ticked away and became hours and still no release seemed in sight.
It was not broiling heat which was her problem, she soon found out, but near freezing cold. She lost count of the number of times she was dunked into the water and dried off again before the awful interminable process of shooting could resume. When the Director was finally satisfied and Veronica was released from her misery, she found herself unable to straighten up for fully half an hour afterwards. ĎNever again,í was her determined thought as she made her way wearily and painfully home.
As she entered her beloved home, she was just in time to answer the telephone and have a long and blessed conversation with her beloved Douglass. He expressed great interest in her filming experience and she agreed to send him a few photos of her† sessions.
The next couple of weeks were among the most hectic of Veronicaís working life. Things were apparently picking up again! Once again her days pumped out mega shots of pure super charged adrenalin into her system. Each night she would adjourn to "The Flask" and unwind in convivial company. She would afterwards collapse into her bed before rising at the crack of dawn to renew the daily battle.
There were two long conversations with Douglass during this time. She wrote him a long letter, enclosing some photographs taken during her film project - pictures of her relaxing with the rest of the crew. His business in the USA was progressing well and he expected to be back in a few weeks time.† They had agreed to waste no more time messing about. Marriage had been agreed on!† Veronica had already started to organize the wedding. She was feeling happier than she could ever remember.
And then came the interruption. She was to leave for Spain and a rugged and remote coastal location the very next day! The tickets were waiting for her when she came home from work and her heart sank when she saw them. It did not matter that she had known for weeks that the day was soon to come - she was sick of the whole damned business by now. Her bruises had just about healed after the realistically filmed torture scenes and all her aches and pains had gone. Now she was to have to go through it all again!
At least she would be being tortured in the fresh air this time, beside the waters of the Atlantic. But she could think of no other mitigating circumstances!
Once again she glanced through the itinerary. Veronica, as the beautiful, doomed and newly kidnapped victim was to be tied to an open air pagan altar, where she would be inspected by her kidnappers, whipped and otherwise tortured,† surrounded by twenty or so chanting members of the Cult. What kind of jerk watches stuff like this, she asked herself for the millionth time!
At last the whole thing was over! The final scenes of the doomed heroine being tormented on a wild storm-tossed beach had been filmed. Why they had needed to come al this way when there were plenty of wild storm-tossed beaches in England, Veronica could not work out. Of course, some of the scenes had been filmed inland on the way to the sacrificial climax and the local scenery was a little more arid and rugged than anything England had to offer! And she was supposed to be captured in Spain before being smuggled to England.
For her final appearance, the hapless victim had been tied upside down her legs spread wide apart as the Cult leader inspected her to ensure that the virgin sacrifice actually was a virgin!
"Golly, Veronica! You really are!" said the actor playing the fearsome master diabolist. "And a sweet and sexy looking girl like you! Miracles never cease!"
Veronica had not like that very much, finding it quite unacceptable, but had largely forgotten it in the remainder of the filming. Now she was relaxing in the bar at the hotel and getting ready to fly home the next day. Hopefully, Douglass should be home a few days after that and her life as a married woman could begin!
Her wedding couldnít come a moment too soon as far as she was concerned, in fact she would gladly give everything she had to put the clock back a few weeks to the time when she had almost broken the poor manís heart and† start out again from there. In that case, she would not be here in this Iberian hotel and the heroine would be some other woman.
"Care to take a farewell stroll, Veronica?" She looked around and saw Jeremy Smythe-Hopkins, the villain who had been responsible for disemboweling her in the closing scene, just foiling the attempt of her lover to rescue her. A sad ending, she had thought, and not one likely to go down too well at the box office, but that was not her problem. Soon she would be out of all this for keeps! She frowned slightly as she remembered the intimate look this not very likeable man had taken at her maidenly secrets and the coarse comment he had made at the time. This creep was the last one she had any thought of taking a moonlight stroll with!
"Sorry, Jeremy" she replied. Iím just about ready for bed. Being tied upside down and given gynecological inspections really takes it out of you!"
With this pleasantry she turned on her heel and made for the lift in the hotel lobby.
"At least have a nightcap on me before turning in," said the persistent Jeremy." I feel bad about being so damned rude and would like to make amends."
He seemed very contrite and Veronica relented. Soon they were sitting in a corner of the lounge sipping at two very different drinks.† His was a whisky with water and hers was some garishly coloured concoction with a name like "Orgasm". She had heard of a cocktail with this name before but never felt inclined to taste it! It was quite pleasant, she decided, but a little heady.
As the conversation went on, she came more and more to be fascinated by this man, who she had previously paid little attention to. He certainly seemed to know an awful lot of very interesting things, especially about the Satanic rituals that the film had been dealing with.
"Of course, most of what weíve been enacting is pure mumbo-jumbo." he explained at one point, "But there are things going on in quiet leafy suburbs, involving the most respectable people that would freeze your blood if you knew about them!"
"Just as well I donít know, then," giggled Veronica, shaking her head and suddenly feeling unpleasantly drowsy. "Maybe I will take that stroll! I feel Iíve inhaled a lot of foul air in this place. A bit of fresh air would be nice!"
Once out of the hotel, Veronica felt better. Her companion suggested they stroll down o the beach and she agreed, finding him strangely likeable all of a sudden. Strange that she should have disliked him so much when he was really so charming. It was certainly a fine night, the sky clear and the moon full. The waves breaking on the shore resonated in her mind and she began to feel very much one with the world around her, so barren and bare compared her native country.
Soon they were at the edge of the cliff and at the head of a flight of steps down to the beach. This was not where they had been filming - that was miles away, and as she looked down at the beach below she felt the urge to go down. Jeremy needed no encouragement and soon they were down the steps and walking side by side along the sandy beach.
"Why donít you strip off, Veronica? You usually like to, I notice. I wonít mind! Your secret will be safe with me."
It was true, what this man had said. Veronica really did wish to take her clothes off and maybe go and swim in the sea, which was warm at this time of the year. She shrugged off her dress and climbed out of her panties.
"See you later, Jeremy! A swim will clear the cobwebs away!" and with this she had plunged into the sea and was soon about a hundred yards out. She still felt increasingly drowsy, though and decided to get back to shore. As she climbed out of the sea, she saw that she and Jeremy were no longer alone.
There were twelve men all dressed in some kind of monk-like garb, as was Jeremy, she saw with a shock of fear. Oh dear! And then the drug finally took effect and she slumped unconscious to the ground.
It was still dark when she woke up. The sky was still clear and the moon still full and high overhead.† She tried to get up and found that this was impossible. She was securely staked out on the beach and surrounded by the thirteen hooded men.† It began to sink in that this time she was appearing for real in a genuine pagan sacrifice! With relief she saw that none of the men seemed to be carrying a whip! She did see that one of them had a very nasty looking knife stuck in the belt of his monkís habit, though, and guessed she would soon be getting a very much closer view of it as it gleamed over her stomach in the ghastly moonlight.
ĎIf only I had not been so greedy,í she thought, Ďall this would not be happening. Oh, my darling Douglass. We would have been so happy if only I had not been so horrible to you! If only you knew how sorry I am and how much I love you!í
"Let me up!" she said out loud, although not imagining for a second that she would be released. This had obviously all been arranged for some time. She wondered how many of these people were members of the film crew! Probably they all were and the whole thing had just been a cover for this dreadful scene in which she was shortly to be killed for real.
"Sorry, Veronica. Weíve been to too much trouble to stop now. The Dark One needs His virgin offering and you are it! Soon it will be Thirteen Oíclock and your big moment will have arrived. And - not that it matters - but none of these Brethren are your fellow film-makers. They are all fast asleep; I saw to that. This place is far from the nearest habitation and the locals have never liked it anyway. It has a special meaning for us of the Dark Brotherhood, but the general run of folks hate it, as would you have done if you had not been drugged!"
This was true. Now that Veronica was her normal self, she could feel the evil of this spot. Even without the presence of this hellish group of wicked depraved men it would be a foul and evil place to be. It reeked of infamy here.
Jeremy turned to the rest of the group and motioned them all to approach Veronica one by one. Each one knelt down, shone a flashlight on her and probed her secret place to examine for himself the evidence of her virginity. By the time all thirteen had satisfied themselves as to the genuineness of the sacrifice, she was close to throwing up. Only the thought that if she did she might choke on her own vomit enabled her to stop her nausea getting the better of her. Although why she bothered, she couldnít imagine. She only had a short time to live and now was as good a time to die as any, in fact it would be better as she would deprive them of the chance to kill her at the appointed hour of Thirteen Oíclock - whatever or whenever that was.
And then she recalled a film she had seen many years ago, as a terrified little girl. How they had let her in to the cinema to watch such a scary film was still a mystery. This had been about a nest of witches in New England. At one hour past midnight the clock, instead of chiming once, had struck thirteen times and the hapless heroine been stabbed on the stroke of thirteen!
She wondered what time it was now! It had been close to ten when she had left the hotel, that place of warmth and safety which might as well be a million miles away now. But she had no idea how long she had been unconscious. It must be about midnight already, maybe much later and close to the dreaded Thirteen Oíclock!
Now that the Brethren had examined her they started chanting some ritualistic incantation and walking around her in an anti-clockwise direction. Widdershins, she thought. That word had always sounded sinister to her and it certainly would even more so in the future, if there was still a future for her!
Looking desperately around her she could see on the cliff top a dark and ruined tower. From the tower came the sound of a bell tolling the three quarter. Only fifteen minutes to go!† Veronica started to think back over her life and all the wasted opportunities, especially her ultimate stupidity in rejecting Douglass. She knew she deserved to be punished for her sins, but wondered if this penalty were not, perhaps, a little excessive!
As she watched the men circling around her she thought how different this scene was in so many ways from the film she had just starred in! In the film, the Witches had worn animal masks and been otherwise stark naked. She preferred this get-up on the whole! Although she had developed a taste for baring her own body, she was none too keen about looking at some others!† All of these guys looked somewhat over weight. Best cover the fat bellies up!† Jeremy was a good looking guy, though, despite the fact that she couldnít stand him, not now that she had her wits back. If he cared to disrobe before putting paid to her, she wouldnít mind too much.
And then it happened. The clock up in the ruined tower began to chime. "Bongggggg!! One Bongggg! Two and so on - up to twelve. By the twelfth chime the chanting had stopped and the Knife was raised over poor Veronicaís stomach, soon to be ripped open. Jeremy was in the act of kneeling when there was a boom and a bright light came on, bathing the whole beach in a light as bright as day.
Jeremy stopped in the midst of aiming the knife at Veronica and slowly keeled over. The knife fell uselessly on her belly. Veronica became aware of shouting coming from the cliff top in which the word "PolicŪa" seemed to figure. One of the other Brethren made for Veronica -apparently keen to pick up the knife and finish the job his leader had been doing, despite the fact that Thirteen had already struck. There was another shot and he too fell dead. Great marksmanship, thought an appreciative Veronica, who had done a bit of shooting herself in her African days before coming to a country where gun ownership was made so difficult.
At this, the remainder of the group ran off, no doubt hoping to find some other way off the beach, now that the ladder was crawling with dark uniformed figures, and one non-uniformed figure! A few more shots brought down a couple more and the rest meekly gave themselves up.
Soon Veronica was being untied and a cloak was put over her to hide her nudity. The man not in a uniform came up to her and put his arms round her. She could feel that he was crying as he kissed her.
"Douglass! Oh, my darling! How did you know I was here?"
"Letís get you back to the hotel and checked over by a doctor, my angel. Youíve had a terrible time. Iíll explain later."
Back at the hotel, a doctor looked her over and said that she was fine but in need of rest. She was given an injection and put to bed. When she woke up it was mid-morning and Douglass was sitting by the bed.
"Now tell me how you came to be there and how the police knew what was happening to me!"
"Simple, my darling! I showed those pictures to friends. You know - the ones taken of you and the film crew. Well, one of those friends is in the FBI and he recognized Jeremy and warned me about him. Heís wanted in several states for ritual murder. He disappeared about a year ago and theyíve been moving heaven and earth to find him. He has a different name over there, by the way. Wayne Hollister, believe it or not! So I got on the first plane to Madrid and warned the police that this guy was taking part in your film. He ought to have been arrested days ago but there was some administrative foul up and we were almost too late. We turned up at the hotel to find most of your colleagues dead to the world.† But, luckily, someone saw you and Jeremy go off together and the rest you know."
And so Veronica was rescued in the nick of time from the consequences of her greed and hardness of heart. She and Douglass flew back to England a few days later and in a week they were married.† A few years later old Andrew passed away and left his business empire to Douglass whom he had adopted as his son.
It would be superfluous and maybe somewhat trite to say that Veronica and her beloved lived happily ever after, but Iíve got to think of some kind of ending and that seems as good as any.